“The childhood shows the man, as morning shows the day,” said the British poet John Milton. For many of us, the choice to be creative was made early on, and it had a lot to do with how we interacted with others. Boston College professor of psychology Ellen Winner found a great many similarities in her studies of gifted children — difficulty making friends, scholastic boredom, and social problems. While often unconventional and nonconforming, her subjects seemed to become creative because of the introversion that sprang from teasing or isolation. “The more profound the gift, the more the isolation.” she noted.
Winner determined that creative children begin to look at the world in unique ways. They travel at a different visual and cognitive speed. Some need little sleep and demand a high level of stimulation. Some become creative on many levels. Essentially “outsiders,” they develop personal coping techniques that they carry with them into maturity. Many never recognize the powers they have developed.
There are a dozen or so characteristics of exceptionally creative persons. It’s useful to note some of them and perhaps reflect on one’s own childhood:
Visual perceptions that transcend everyday life
Heightened responses to natural surroundings
Sustained high standards of work ethic
Early presence of mentor(s)
Early formation of personal identity
Tendency to do things in unique ways
Preference to work autonomously
Defiance or suspicion of conventional thinking
Beside having the ability to make connections, think abstractly, and take risks, highly creative folks are also found to be precocious, sensitive, inventive, proactive, authentic, imaginative, curious and childlike.
Here are some thoughts for the highly creative: Unfortunately, in the natural jungle that runs through crib, kindergarten, college, and the great classroom of life, it’s easy for you to get the idea that there’s something wrong with you. There isn’t. No matter what your upbringing, school experience, or the slings and arrows of life itself, you’re just different. And you’re okay. Really okay. Tremendously okay. And you’re not alone.
PS: “I am a child who is getting on.” (Marc Chagall)
Esoterica: The child within us may be the key to all invention and creativity. A schoolyard bully may have done the favor. Or the seed may forever remain a mystery. But recognizing we have the tools to create is the greatest gift and offers the potential for the highest manifestation of humanity. We accept the gift and proliferate with joy and impunity.
This letter was originally published as “The child within us” on March 9, 2007.
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“It takes a very long time to become young.” (Pablo Picasso)
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Robert’s technique includes a tradition of strong design with patterns of color and form, with a pervasive sense of personal style. Grand themes are transposed onto small panels and larger canvases in a manner similar to members of the Group of Seven. Most of Robert’s work is in acrylic. He has also done considerable work in oils, watercolour, and silk screen printing.