Thursday, August 15th, 2013
As a longtime writer, I adore the famous creativity expert Julia Cameron and her seminal book, The Artist’s Way. I read it over and over in college as I tried to write colorful essays and stories. I still wake up a few minutes early to write three longhand (completely sloppy) pages of random stuff, an exercise Julia calls Morning Pages. Her tips, tricks and wisdom can add momentum and energy to your work and your life.
Finally, after years of requests, Julia has written The Artist’s Way for Parents. Use this great guide to increase creativity for your children–and for you, too. She says when adults get that vibrant energy flowing, inevitably kids will too. She also thinks we’re all too over-scheduled. So go ahead and do it: Just say no to that next activity, and use that time to stoke your creativity.
I was honored to interview Julia Cameron. Below, see what she has to say about playtime, boredom, technology and more.
KK: Do you think we over-schedule kids today? Do you think we often forget to give them the opportunity to be creative?
JC: Children today are often over-scheduled. In our desire for them to do well, we frequently demand that they do more. A violin lesson, a math tutor, a French class, a soccer match–all these and more are crammed into our children’s lives. Conspicuously missing is free time, time for the imagination to play.
KK: Why is creativity so important for children to cultivate and experience?
JC: Creativity brings happiness. Children experience the joy of living through developing their creativity.
KK: How is the Artist’s Way for Parents different than the original Artist’s Way?
JC: The original Artist’s Way focused on the nurturing of the self. The Artist’s Way for Parents focuses both on nurturing the self and nurturing the children in our care.
KK: If a busy new mom only has time for one creativity exercise for herself, which one would you suggest?
JC: Morning Pages–three pages of longhand morning writing that connects us to ourselves.
KK: Why is it important that she continues to explore her own interests?
JC: Continuing to explore her own interests keeps the new mother from feeling stymied and trapped.
KK: What’s a fast and easy creativity exercise for a mom and child to do right away?
JC: Mother and child can play the game of “Highlights”– each naming and describing the high point of the day.
KK: What are some of the ways that parents unknowingly limit their child’s creativity – and what are some ways that they can break this cycle and start encouraging their creativity?
JC: Over-scheduling their child’s time, far from improving their lives, actually damages them. Scheduling an hour of free time strengthens their imagination. When children are free to concoct their own diversions, they develop passionate pastimes. As they play with dolls or toy horses, they make up stories. These stories are often deeply imaginative.
KK: How can technology and our many digital devices (iPads, computers, TVs, etc.) be blocks to creativity?
JC: Technology teaches passivity. Absorbed in our devices — at any age– we are absorbed in someone else’s perspective.
KK: What are a few of the activities you did with you mother that really encouraged you to play and be creative?
JC: I would say crafts connected to holidays: Easter eggs, Halloween goblins, snowflakes, valentines.
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KK: You write that boredom is nothing more than a “call to action.” So when a child complains of boredom–how should parents respond?
JC: Setting out playthings and then leaving the child alone is the trick. Don’t try to “fix” the child’s boredom–rather, let the child find his or her inner resources.
Monday, June 17th, 2013
You might have seen Sir Ken Robinson on TV or in Time magazine or caught him in a TED talk in the last few weeks. He’s the creativity expert and also the popular author of The Element. That book has a new sequel out called Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life.
This all reminds me of the movie The Notebook. The main character, Allie (Rachel McAdams), realizes that she has stopped painting since she’s been with her new rich boyfriend. She used to paint all of the time before she broke up with her first love. Who does she choose to be with at then end? (Duke, Ryan Gosling’s character, of course!) She winds up painting in the nude on her front porch!
Allie knew what her passions and talents were, but what if you don’t? Sir Robinson says it’s imperative that you find out what they are not to start living a happier and more fulfilling life. It doesn’t matter how busy you are–there’s always time for what you love to do. I sent Sir Ken Robinson some questions via email. He gives tips for finding your Element–and helping to foster your child’s passion and creativity, too.
KK: You say our traditional schools can stifle creativity. How can parents with young children encourage it at home?
KR: If parents reading this have two or more children, I’ll make a bet that their children are completely different from each other. All children are unique. As a result, there are two main ways in which schools can stifle creativity. If there’s a narrow curriculum it limits opportunities for children to explore their individual talents and interests. If there’s too much emphasis on standardized testing, it can inhibit imagination, play and original thinking, all of which are at the heart of creativity. Parents can help by providing a range of activities outside school that stimulate and engage their children’s imagination and creative energies. They can help too by watching for and encouraging the different sorts of activities that absorb them as individuals.
KK: In Finding Your Element, you suggest practical exercises for figuring out what makes you tick. One of these is very simple—just defining “what you are good at” and making a diagram of circles around your name. How important is it for moms to find their elements while they’re busy working and raising young children?
KR: I think it’s vital for you to do this. Among the sleepless nights, frantic activity and constant multi-tasking of being a parent, raising children can be wonderfully rewarding. At the same time, it can be easy for parents to lose sight of other things that may fulfill them and that are essential to a balanced life of their own. It’s important in all stages of our lives to develop our own talents and passions, and to take care of ourselves as well as our children. Part of the safety announcement on airplanes says, “Before helping others, put your own oxygen mask on first.” There’s a basic truth in that for our lives in general.
KK: Do you think making the diagram of circles with your children’s interests could eventually determine what their calling in life might be?
KR: Yes, I do. My original book, The Element, explains that the Element is where your natural talents meet your personal passions. When you’re in your Element, you feel that you’re really “in your skin:” that you’re doing something you were just made to do. I wrote the sequel, Finding Your Element because of the various questions people asked when they read that first book. One was whether it’s possible to have more than one Element. Of course it is, and your Element can change over time too, as you discover new talents or your interests and enthusiasms evolve. The same is true for your children. Encouraging your children to go back from time to time to review their talents and passions is a good way of not only finding their Element but of staying in it as they grow.
KK: Parents can be micro-managers of their children’s lives. How do you suggest we step back and learn to let children find their own element while also offering encouragement?
KR: There’s a definite temptation for parents to over-program their children and have them dashing from one activity and social gathering to another. For the reasons I’ve given, it’s important to give your children a range of opportunities to explore their talents and interests. It’s also important not to overdo it. We all need time to be ourselves, away from the pressures to conform or perform. So do your children. They need time to rest and to play, to read, doodle, experiment, make things and to go wherever their imaginations may take them. If you keep a watch on them, you’ll begin to see what sorts of activities they’re most drawn to and that’s often the time to look at other opportunities you can provide to enhance and extend those interests.
KK: If your child excels at several things, how do you help them hone in on one area? What do you do if your child is better at something they don’t love than something they do love?
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KR: As children grow up, their interests naturally evolve. Some may take the place of others and new ones form too. Often some interests do naturally come to dominate the others. It’s not necessary to force this process. It’s better, to guide and advise. I’m often asked what to do if someone is passionate about something they may not be very good at. In my experience, passion is the driving force. A moderate talent combined with powerful enthusiasm will normally take you or your children further than a strong talent with little passion. You should remember too, that ability grows with practice. The more you love something, the more you do it and the better you’re likely to become. That’s all part of being in your Element.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
So many books came out this week that it’s difficult to choose which ones to recommend to you. Need funny baby names? Horrified by a scandal? How about a decent night’s sleep with your baby? There’s a brand new read for all of the above–plus one more on creativity. It’s a hot week for book geeks, so be sure to check out my picks for parents.
Hello, My Name is Pabst: Baby Names for Nonconformist, Indie, Geeky, DIY, Hipster and Alterna-Parents of Every Kind
by Miek Bruno and Kerry Sparks
Quirky names rule in this over-the-top, funny baby name book. Just take a look at the first author’s moniker. He didn’t like being one of six Mikes in his kindergarten classroom, so now he goes by Miek. If you’re not into popular standbys such as Jennifer, Jacob, Sophia and Daniel, this book is for you. It’s broken down into unique sections offering even more creative ideas. My favorite chapters are Names You Can Drink at the Bar (Ketel, Booth, Rocks, Olive) and, just in time for Halloween, Morbid Names for Your Little Goth Prince/ss of Darkness (Raven, Voltaire, Dante and Lestat.) If I were headed to a babyshower, this would be one of my gifts.
Silent No More: Victim 1′s Fight for Justice Against Jerry Sandusky
by Aaron Fisher
Late last week, Victim 1 broke his anonymity before his book hit shelves. Aaron Fisher was 11 years old when Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky recruited him to be his Second Mile children’s charity. At age 14, after enduring “hundreds” of incidences at the hands of Sandusky, Aaron was the first person to tell authorities what was happening. Aaron stuck to his story for three years during this scandalous national investigation. He helped a jury convict the coach on 45 counts of sexual assault. With the help of his mother and his psychologist, Aaron shares his side of this horrific story in his memoir.
Sweet Dreams: How to Establish and Maintain Good Sleep Habits for Your Baby
by Arna Skula
The author, Arna Skula, is a clinical nurse specialist in Iceland who works at a clinic for babies with sleep problems. In her book, she turns her experience and research into advice for parents. She addresses the importance of circadian rhythms, the baby’s age, developmental state and other factors in the infant’s sleep patterns. She helps parents know what they can reasonably expect from their baby and what to do to help the little one sleep well and feel happy. The book offers advice from birth up to 24 months. Check out her free sleep chart to get a feel for her work.
The Missing Alphabet: A Parents’ Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids
by Susan Marcus, Susie Monday and Cynthia Herbert, Ph.D
This book is all about cultivating creativity in our kids. The authors believe the future belongs to children with innovative minds. They offer up The Sensory Alphabet, basic building blocks that are as powerful as the ABCs. One cool part is the Field Guide full of ideas for creative things families can do at home, in museums and around their neighborhoods. If you’re interested in the creative process and how to foster it, this book will give you ideas and tools.
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Aaron Fisher, Arna Skula, baby name book, baby sleep, creativity, Cynthia Herbert, Hello, Jerry Sandusky, Kerry Sparks, Miek Bruno, My Name is Pabst, Penn State, Silent No More, sleep through the night, Susan Marcus, Susie Monday, Sweet Dreams: How to Establish and Maintain Good Sleep Habits for Your Baby, The Missing Alphabet: A Parents' Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids, Victim 1 | Categories:
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