Earlier in May of this year, Janet Rae-Dupree wrote an article about the impact of habits on creativity. Published in the New York Times, Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? mentioned a number of issues that I have touched upon in Neurons Firing. Rae-Dupree does an excellent job of making her points, so you might want to read her article before reading the rest of my post.
Mel Levine has always championed finding out what you like or what you are good at, and then forging ahead in that area. He has written, “All students should have experience savoring true expertise, having one or more areas of deep knowledge and passion/obsession.” In his book A Mind at a Time, Levine states that “The young have a basic right and a need to develop their affinities over time.” He is “convinced that many students who appear to have significant learning problems (and in a real sense they do) in reality have highly specialized minds, brains that were never designed to be well rounded.” Levine sums up the importance of affinities and strengths:
Parents and our educational system must provide opportunities for kids to utilize and strengthen their strengths and their affinities–no matter what those assets happen to be. To deny a developing mind access to its specialty is cruel. To judge one’s worthiness in the specialties of others is equally inhumane.
Sir Ken Robinson makes very similar points in his oft-referenced TED Talk. He has suggested that schools squash creativity, in essence that we “educate people out of their creative capacities.” I’ve written extensively about Robinson, and you can summon up all the posts from the tag cloud at the right.
This brings me back to Rae-Dupree’s article. She talks about developing new habits, indeed, that it IS POSSIBLE to develop new habits, and there are benefits to doing so: “…brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.”
She concludes with a quote from one of the authors interviewed. “You cannot have innovation,” she [Dawna Markova] adds, “unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.”
Pour all of these complementary ideas into a hat, and you increase the likelihood of being able to pull out the metaphorical rabbit.