I had a roommate for a couple years in college who was incredibly “creative”. She loved seeking out new music, styling her hair in weird ways (she had a Mohawk at one point), dressing in ways I would not dare, writing dark poetry, drawing abstract images, etc. While she was not particularly invested in any one art form, I considered her very creative and different. While she is a special breed in a number of ways, part of it was that she came from Seattle, where I think difference is tolerated and encouraged to a greater extent than it is in Vermont and on the East Coast in general. We had many conversations about this, how she thought people were too uptight here, and that we East Coasters lacked something too. I was a bit offended at first, but I couldn’t disagree. It’s true, the vibe in East Coast cities and towns is just not the same as it is in Seattle and other West Coast cities and towns. The East Coast is the Old World to the West Coast. I spent two summers in the San Juan Islands in Washington, and I felt out of place. I felt so uncreative. I felt so boring, even though I felt that my wit was every bit as creative as anybody’s. In high school it was almost a hindrance, as I would make clever remarks – at least I thought they were clever – and the typical response was a blank stare.
I can remember multiple occasions where I struggled with creativity in college. Like most, I wanted greater opportunity to express myself in creative ways, but I just felt like I lacked the talent or spark. I gave up on the piano years before. I was always just “ok” at singing, drawing, painting, dancing, writing etc. In other words, I was no creative genius, which is somewhat of a frustrating realization when you are constantly surrounded by so many incredibly talented people in college. Of course I appreciated others’ talents, but a part of me was always a bit jealous. Again, I felt so boring, like I had very little to offer to “enrich the college community” or the community at large. It seemed that I could write analytical papers for days, but I couldn’t create anything truly beautiful- which had always been my measure for creativity. But, my friend, the “creative” one, reassured me that I was creative, just in different ways that I would not admit. When she said that to me I really did not believe her.
This is my story in response to the prompt in this week’s lecture – to think about the ways in which we are both critical and creative. I think I have always liked school because I was good at being critical. It was easy for me, and I liked the concreteness of the “right answer”. Thinking critically has always been at the forefront of my intellectual existence. I was creative too, it just was harder to pinpoint. I am an athlete. I think my creativity has always rested in my ability to generate on the field, or on the ice. I have always been a play maker, or so I’m told. I love to play on teams, I think because I love being active, but I also love being able to communicate and collaborate with others in a physical sense. I’ve competed in college Nationals competitions in both ice hockey and ultimate frisbee, and I have devoted probably 20 years of my life (some unconsciously) to sport. I am incredibly creative when given a soccer ball, frisbee, ice hockey or lacrosse stick. I can unconsciously think and act in divergent ways when given the chance in a practice or game. Often I am not really sure how I produce certain plays, and there is both creativity and critical thinking involved when I make minute decisions as both a player and a coach in sport. I think this is especially true in coaching- because one must use divergent thinking to come up with a variety of possibilities for players and tactics against different teams, and one must also use convergent thinking to come to the best solution for a particular player (in terms of how to coach them) and for overall decisions about what the team needs to work on in a practice or game. So yes, I am creative and critical, but I guess I just am not creative in a way that is very apparent to the general public or myself.