There are quite a few downsides to social media, but one of the things I like most about it is the never ending stream of things to spark my curiosity. I think of Twitter and Instagram as the contemporary equivalent of a commonplace book – a place where I can collect little pieces of inspiration – the thoughts, images, words and articles that make my brain light up in some way.
This week on Twitter I came across this mini poem, posted by the great Michael Rosen:
This is the way
The mind grows.
Not with a test
But a tale.
If you don’t already know Michael Rosen, please do look him up – he’s obviously a brilliant poet and story teller, but also a powerful voice in opposition to current Education policy. I spoke briefly on an Instagram live last week about my worries that the current curriculum isn’t helping young people to thrive – totally NOT the fault of teachers or schools, I hasten to add! – and I will talk more about that in future blogs.
But for the moment, I want to concentrate on the thing that struck me most when I scrolled past this poem on Twitter – and that’s the ‘chat’. It made me think that conversation is collaboration, which sounds obvious, although I’ve spent enough time listening to people that speak at you, rather than with you, to know that not everyone thinks the same.
For me, collaboration and conversation are at the heart of creativity. It’s very difficult to be creative in a void. Creativity needs a spark, something to bounce off and ricochet between.
In my old job as a theatre director, the best rehearsals were when everyone in the room was building on the ideas of everyone else; that lovely flow where you not only feel on the same wavelength as others, but where ideas are thrown about, remoulded, expanded or edited, and it becomes more than the sum of its parts.
As the director, it wasn’t about telling people what to do, but encouraging and enabling the creativity to flow, without anyone’s ego getting in the way; creating a company-wide collaborative generosity – a creative conversation.
I think of Bumblebee prompts in the same way – they aren’t about giving you a set of instructions to follow; I hope they will encourage you to have a chat with the book in some way, and so everyone’s conversation will be different – that’s the fun of Bumblebee-ing.
It’s easy to think that “being creative” is a solo endeavour, but actually it’s always a conversation with whatever inspires you, whether that’s the work of another artist, your own mood, or the world around you. Sometimes there are multiple ‘chatters’ in the conversation, sometimes it’s you talking to a different version of yourself.
Reading as an adult can also feel like something you just do on your own – but of course your imagination is in conversation with the writer’s words.
So next time you’re reading to a child, don’t leave out the chat around the story; it’s where you’ll find the imaginative spark.
Sending love and creativity,
Ps. If you like the idea of a commonplace book – here’s a film about using one: