What a Waste?

I have been hunting for ways to nurture creativity in my children, but hadn’t really found much. Then I stumbled upon Dave Werner’s now famous portfolio.

What intrigued me the most were the things that fueled his creative growth growing up. So rather than guess what those things might be, I asked him. Here’s a list of things Dave did or was free to do in his childhood that exercised his creative muscles (Thanks for sharing Dave):

  • Exploring and drawing maps of the woods near our neighborhood, including secret bases and paths
  • Drawing huge murals on butcher paper of imaginary worlds and characters
  • Making fictional television guides with shows like “Lego” and “Dinnertime”…if we were ever bored, we would just look at what time it was and check out what the different imaginary channels were playing.
  • Writing journals and stories in spiral notebooks
  • Creating construction paper menus and taking drink orders whenever we had relatives come over for dinner
  • Making short films with stuffed animals and action figures
  • Starting a detective agency called Outlook, making secret codes and using walkie-talkies
  • Having a full bookshelf, always reading
  • Making radio shows or singing impromptu songs into our tape recorder
  • Having massive treasure hunts outside with the neighborhood kids

Now, how many of us were able to do any of these types of things in elementary, middle, high school or even college? Probably none of us. That kid day dreaming out the window may be the next Dave Werner. Or the girl doodling all over notebooks the next _____. Most of these activities were labeled a waste of time by our teachers (and maybe parents?), but they are an essential part of exercising the imagination. Maybe what we need in school and life is 4 hours of “recess” and 2 hours of “classroom” time? i’ve talked about the power for creative Good that is held in our imaginations when we looked at C.S. Lewis’ work in the Narnia series. It is no coincidence that Lewis’ ideas for the entire series came his imaginary play during childhood.

So, what I’m going to try and do for my children (I have 5 under the age of 15) is encourage the very things that seem to me to be “childish”, and maybe in the process I’ll discover some part of my own imagination.

8 Responses to “What a Waste?”

  1. Frank McClung

    That’s encouraging katharhino. Sometimes it’s the small things that spark the most creativity, not big programs and resources.

  2. katharhino

    I was homeschooled too, which, I agree, is inherently more creative than “going to school.” I think two thing my parents did most encouraged our creativity. One was provide us with tons and tons of really good art supplies as soon as we showed an interest in art. We were never out of drawing paper and construction paper. We each had our own glue, tape, and set of Pentel markers, and we shared an enormous set of Prismacolor colored pencils. The other thing they did was encourage reading. My mom read out loud a chapter each day as we started homeschool: classic children’s literature, the Narnia books, Tolkien, historical fiction, etc. Lots of stories to feed the imagination.

    They must have done something right, because I am now a designer, and my brother is in an architecture program. My sister chose not to pursue art as a career, but she can draw and she pours her creativity into scrapbooking, card making, and lettering.

  3. Frank McClung

    I went to a service academy after high school. Try and imagine the creative freedom I experienced there! Let’s just say your creativity grows in different (and sometimes not very healthy) ways.

    Lately, I’ve really wanted to broaden and deepen my understanding and practice of design from the ground up. I would love to go to a place where I could learn more but actually have the projects pay something. Ironically, I’ve looked into the Porfolio Center in Atlanta as an option for learning. I just can’t figure out how to pay for the $31,000 two year tuition and support my family and not be in debt when I leave. I’ve thought about getting real clients for each student course project that would pay the bills and still allow me to fulfill the course requirements. I’ve liked Portfolio Center’s focus on the real world and think it could be of benefit to me. Other programs like Yale’s GDMFA are too impractical for me. An apprenticeship maybe at 36 years old? Thoughts?

  4. Jonathan

    I’m coming from the other side. I was not homeschooled like katharhino. I went to a college prep high school. I was almost a year from graduating college before I found my own reasons for being there. And though, my own reason have changed and grown, I continue to feel tied to a set of ideals in my head that keep my heart bound.

    One of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, captured for me a picture of what tries to control me everyday and what I am fighting against so well. Several of the prison inmates sit on some bleachers in the exercise yard while one reads a letter from a friend named Brooks, who had just a short time earlier been release from the prison. The letter was his to be his last written shortly before he took his life. In one of the first lines of the letter he noted that the world had gone and got itself in a big hurry while he was away and he just didn’t fit in. He missed the prison that had been his home for most of his life. He had been in prison so long, he had grown dependant on it’s system – his freedom so far removed, he was beside himself and didn’t know what to do with it. Morgan Freeman’s character, named Red, explained to the other inmates how a man like Brooks could go mad like that and coined the phrase, ” institutionalized”.

    There are many days I feel institutionalized – I have been in the system so long, had so many decisions made for me, raised my hand so many times for permission to piss, that breaking out of the system is flat-out scary.

    I continue to make my attempts because I know deep down I want to be free. And, more than that, I don’t want my kids to have to climb out of the pit I’ve been in. I want them to know freedom all their days – I want them to be able to create and experiment and explore and have so much fun doing it that they don’t even realize just how much they’ve accomplished.

    Thanks for the list Frank and Dave. Now, if I can just find the OFF switch on the tele…

  5. D.C.

    When I was a child we played all sorts of games. My favorite was “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.” I know it’s from a movie, so that means I was watching something and not imagining it, but we did make our own bows and arrows (shoddy as they were). We even had some flaming arrows. My mom wasn’t to thrilled about those. I would also dig tunnels in the sides of hills for my hot wheels to drive through and we built a fort with a hammer, some nails, and left over freight palettes. It was three stories tall. Man that thing was cool. It was covered with kudzu (which we set on fire once with fireworks on the 4th of July) so we could use it as tower to launch water balloons onto cars on the street about 10 feet away. Launching the water balloons was dangerous and I would not recommend it to any child, but the fort was certainly cool. All of this in a decently densely populated area of Memphis, TN.

  6. Frank McClung

    I wonder if you could say the same things about adult designers and creativity Anne?

  7. Anne Jackson

    I also played a Robin Hood game – I grew up in West Texas with NOTHING to do, so I’d ride my bike and pretend I was out fighting with Robin Hood (although it was the fox version of him)…as I grew older I became a police officer who made drug busts, or a cowgirl riding a horse (a propane tank)…I think if you just let kids go…their imaginations will take over. 🙂

  8. Anne Jackson

    I also played a Robin Hood game – I grew up in West Texas with NOTHING to do, so I'd ride my bike and pretend I was out fighting with Robin Hood (although it was the fox version of him)…as I grew older I became a police officer who made drug busts, or a cowgirl riding a horse (a propane tank)…I think if you just let kids go…their imaginations will take over. 🙂


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