This morning I told the story of The God Who Sneezed, an ancient Egyptian creation myth (Jenny Fox Eades 2013) at St Paul’s Catholic Primary school in Poynton, as part of an assembly where we thought about ‘creativity’. It is a strange story, a story from a faith tradition we no longer understand. But two things struck me as I told the story. Firstly, there was the fact that the act of creativity emerged against a backdrop of silence – there was ‘nothing to hear but the slow, sloosh of the primeval river flowing past’. Creativity needs stillness, it needs space and moments of silence for reflection, what I call ‘sinking in time’ – as well as noise and buzz, discussion and the exchange of ideas.
The second thing that struck me was the playfulness, or humour of the story – the god, Atum, sneezes creation out of its nose! And creativity just IS playfulness – playing with ideas, playing with materials, playing with words or musical notes or numbers. Too much seriousness, too much focus on ‘the right answer’ or ‘getting it right’, on deadlines and rules and regulations, is a sure way to stifle creativity.
The god in the story needed stillness and silence and playfulness to create – and so do we.
And during the assembly there were moments of complete stillness and silence – yes, children can and do enjoy silence! And there was time to be noisy, to play with ideas and to chat and think aloud.
The children and teachers at St Paul’s said that they thought creativity involved ‘making things’, ‘making ideas’, ‘originality or uniqueness’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘linking’. One person raised the idea that you could be creative with friendships and relationships – I was surprised at first but her thought is growing on me!
I asked them to ‘be creative’ in the week ahead because psychologists tell us that the simple instruction, ‘be creative’ does actually produce a rise in creativity – perhaps because we need permission to be playful and not to try to get it ‘right’ first time!
When I go back in on Thursday, I shall ask them how they have got on. Watch this space………..
Fox Eades, Jenny 2013 Character Strengths Assemblies. Kirkby-in-Ashfield: TTS