I watched a TED talk the other day, it was from way back in 2006 so you’ve probably already seen it, but some how or other it had passed me by. It was this one, by Sir Ken Robinson…
It’s funny isn’t it, how sometimes the universe presents things to you just at the right time. Sir Ken’s talk resonated with me this week. Let me explain why. A few days ago I had to go into Amelie’s school for a presentation by the teacher about what the children will be doing this year. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but certainly something more inspirational than what I heard. It’s not that it’s a bad school, in fact I think as these things go, it’s probably quite a good one. But I left that talk thinking that school just doesn’t suit children. I felt that when I was at school, Sir Ken thought it back in 2006, and here we are in 2023 and it’s just the same.
Amelie is OK, at home we balance out the heavy handed, single minded, old-fashioned, emphasis on attainment at Maths and English with celebrating her success in sports and doing lots of art, being in and understanding nature, learning about plants, caring for animals, understanding the world at large. But what a shame that the school system can’t celebrate those things too. Forgive me, as you can tell, I have a bee in my bonnet. But honestly, I’ve spoken to so many adults over the years who’ve said, ‘Oh my teacher said I was rubbish at art so I gave up’. And then that person has missed having creativity in their life for so long because as a child their ability at it was squashed for being unimportant, or judged like a math exam rather than being celebrated as a natural human endeavour.
In Sir Ken’s talk he spoke about making mistakes. How we will, and should, make mistakes as creatives. It’s part of the natural process and without mistakes, then there can be no adventure, no risk, no what if? It’s a balance isn’t it? To enable children, people, to find and nurture their natural talents, whatever they may be, rather than driving them to conform to expected attainment standards in topics defined by an outdated system. But also to enable children, and us adults, to feel that even if we don’t excel at something, that we can do it anyway, just for the pure enjoyment of it.
Feeling free to do what you love, try things, experiment and make mistakes is so important to any creative person. A lot of the work I’ve done over the years has been a bit rubbish. But I’ve come to accept that often, if not always, you have to work through the rubbish to find the good stuff. No-one’s good at anything on day one, but you just have to start. It’s only by doing that, that you can find that special something, whatever it may be.
Ha! That was starting to turn into a TED talk of my own.
But can I encourage you to do something brave and creative today? Don’t worry about the outcome. Do or make something for the pleasure of the time spent doing it. Don’t fear it won’t be good enough, or that it won’t get finished, or that you might waste your good paints, or spoil the first page of that new sketchbook. Use your best brushes, cut the good fabric you’ve been saving, think that you might make a mistake and do it anyway.