This is the first episode in a three part series of podcasts with Dr. Joanne Foster for parents and their children, especially designed so families can listen and learn about creativity – in particular, what underlies creativity; keys to nurturing creative expression at home, school and elsewhere; and strategies for building a more creative and fulfilling life. In part one, Dr. Foster examines the “superpower” of creativity.
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Steve: 00:35 Co-Creating a Creative Vibe: Part One – Understanding Creativity, Why it’s Important and How it Develops. I’m excited to be launching this three part series of podcast for parents and their children. This trio of podcasts is especially designed so families can listen and learn about creativity, in particular, what underlies creativity, what are the keys to nurturing creative expression at home and school and elsewhere, and what are some strategies for building a more creative and fulfilling life? Dr. Joanne Foster, who has a master’s degree in special education and adaptive instruction, as well as a doctoral degree in human development and applied psychology is our guest. Joanne is an author whose writing reflects her experiences as a parent, consultant teacher, university instructor and community advocate. She leads a master’s class titled, “Igniting Your Child’s Creativity and Why It’s Important.” Across these podcasts. Dr. Foster will reveal lots of current information and share helpful resources as she invites parents and children to come together and be inspired to explore and extend the power of possibilities. As an avid learner and a grandparent, I can’t wait to learn more so let’s get started. Welcome Dr. Foster.
Dr. Foster: 02:12 Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be able to speak with you. I hope that everybody out there is also an avid learner
because we’re going to be chatting about creativity and why it really matters and why we need to learn more about it too.
Steve: 02:27 I’m wondering if you might open up by describing how you got interested in creativity. What sparked that for you?
Dr. Foster: 02:35 I’ve always really been creative. I’ve loved writing, I’ve loved color, I’ve loved opportunities to learn. When I was teaching at the university of Toronto, I taught the educational psychology program and one of the topics among many was creativity – working with teachers to help them understand why creativity is an important part of the learning process. And the more I read and the more I learned, the more I was able to convey ideas and get involved in that whole concept, that creativity is at the core of pretty much everything that we do. It’s how we wake up in the morning and decide, how will we move forward? What will we do today? What can I do differently? What can I see differently? How can I make it a better place? So I really love the idea of creativity and I explored it further. I write about it in one way or another in all seven of my books. And I think creativity is like having a superpower. It’s like having something in your pocket that you can pull out whenever you want and how wonderful is that? So that’s sort of where I come from in terms of creativity, whether it’s poetry, writing music, drama, puppetry, you name it. It’s all out there and it’s all a matter of the promise of possibility, I guess.
Steve: 03:54 So can you give us some definition of creativity and kind of why it’s important and the benefits that come from it?
Dr. Foster: 04:03 Sure. I think creativity enables new perspectives and pathways. So it’s a matter of looking at things in an original way and building upon your existing knowledge. It’s a basis for thinking, for learning, for sharing, for having fun, for dreaming, for dancing, for inspiring others, for exploring, you name it, and creativity is part of it. It can also help you meet your challenges. So as you know, you encounter a difficulty or some sort of adversity, it gives you a possible way out possible way around, a different perspective, perhaps, enabling you to problem solve and it can also provide comfort in some ways too, because you can see yourself perhaps finding a way forward. A really important aspect of creativity is that it sparks excitement. It sparks the curiosity, the idea that you can question and you can find answers and you can move forward in ways that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before. So all of that is really, really important.
Steve: 05:11 So could we use the word energy?
Dr. Foster: 05:13 Absolutely. But alongside energy, you also have to put the word effort and you have to put the word choice because it’s one thing to have the energy, but if you don’t put forth the work that’s required and have the, you know, time and patience and willfulness to try something creative, then you’re not gonna go very far. I mean, you have the choice to stand still and do nothing, you have the choice to move backwards and not really go anywhere, or you have the choice to move forward and be creative and use that energy. I think too, that when you’re talking about energy, there’s brain power energy, that I should mention – the idea that there’s a strong relationship between creativity and building that energy, building that intelligence, and I know I’m talking here to children as well as to adults, but if you picture your brain as having millions and millions and millions of pathways, and those pathways have sparks going all the time, every which way and all the time, those are called synapses. And every time you use your creativity, every time you use your energy to learn something new, what you’re doing is you’re building your brain. You’re increasing your brain power. So picture all those sparking sparkling lights, like stars on these pathways and flashing every millisecond and think of the energy that you’re creating, but you have to put forth the effort as well.
Steve: 06:47 So let’s talk about what creativity looks like. I’m kind of thinking of it two ways – for kids who are listening in here with us, how would I know I just did something that was creative? And as parents, what is it that jumps out at us as we’re observing our kids that we’d label as creativity?
Dr. Foster: 07:08 Okay. So I’m going to the second piece first about labeling. Let’s not worry about labels of anything. We don’t have to label children, we don’t have to label work, we don’t have to grade it. Labels are for drawers. Labels are for camp clothes. Let’s not look at labels. Let’s think about what creativity might look like, which is actually your first question. And if it makes you happy, if you’ve done something that makes you feel proud and that you wanna share, and that has built up some of those neural pathways, then that’s wonderful. And what creativity looks like will vary from one person to the other across the lifespan. So creativity may take place during the course of gardening or finger painting, or writing poetry or music making or sculpting sand, or doing gymnastics, wood working, icing a cake.
Dr. Foster: 08:03 It’s not also a question just of doing, it’s not a question of having a final product, what’s really important is the actual process. It’s the journey of doing the creative expression, the idea of looking at possibilities and then narrowing them down a little bit and then sending them out in different ways by brainstorming or getting ideas from other people or maybe even looking critically at what you’ve done and thinking, oh, how can I do this better and what needs to be tweaked. So remember, going back to this idea of having a superpower, even those superheroes who have their superpowers learn over time how to build those powers through the process of doing through the process of learning. And I think that we have to remember that it is indeed a process, and some days you may feel more creative than others, and that’s okay. And parents just have to realize that children will have some days when they’re just full of a million ideas and questions and so forth and other days they won’t. That doesn’t mean they’re not creative. For all you know, maybe they’re just thinking and percolating and coming up with ideas that you just don’t know about.
Steve: 09:18 So I was gonna check my listening here. It sounds like I don’t need a product to be creative.
Dr. Foster: 09:25 Correct. You can be creative by going through the process of coming up with ideas and not actually arriving at a specific product. So I was talking to a nine year old couple of days ago, and I said, when are you at your most creative? And she says, hanging upside down or doing flips, Well, she’s not gonna be necessarily writing a story while she’s hanging upside down and doing flips. And I said, any other time? And she said, yes, when I’m wearing a costume, a tiara or a feathered hat.
Dr. Foster: 09:59 So, I mean, this is her idea of being creative and, and okay, she’s not handing me anything specific. So then I started asking a couple of other kids, well, when are you at your most creative? And somebody told me, well, I like to doodle. Well, that’s fine. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a finished product. It’s a work in progress. Somebody else told me, I like to snack on chocolate. Well, okay. If that’s what gives you the energy, if that’s what gives you the happiness and you are thinking of creative things, that’s wonderful. So think about when you are at your most creative and maybe the product will come later or maybe it won’t, but don’t stop your creative process simply because you feel the need to have something tangible at the end of the day or the end of the week or the end of the month. You can still be creative without that.
Steve: 10:49 So how would you describe how creativity develops?
Dr. Foster: 10:55 Okay. So it’s really important that creativity is seen as something that develops that, as you say, we use the energy, but
we also use the time we have the patience. And the first thing you have to understand is that creativity develops step by step. So in the sense that you often see those caricatures of somebody with a light bulb over their head, that it’s all of a sudden happened that they’re creative – I’m sure you’ve seen that sort of pictures, sometimes we do have those aha moments and sometimes creativity does happen like that, but mostly it happens step by step. And even if you do have one light bulb going off, there’s no reason why you can’t have more. So step by step is one aspect. Another aspect of how creativity develops is by mastering challenges by taking yourself to the next level.
Dr. Foster: 11:42 So moving yourself in a forward direction, advancing. So that you take ideas that you already have, and you build upon them so that you come up with new ideas or perspectives. So step by step, mastering challenges and the effort piece, the fact that it’s not just gonna happen if you sit around and do nothing, although you could be reflecting, which is good, but you really have to put forth that desire, that choice because basically, at the end of the day, creativity is a choice. You can either decide to be creative, or you can decide not to.
Steve: 12:15 I’m thinking about when that light bulb goes on. Is it fair to say that even in those cases when that light bulb goes on, there’s a connectedness to investments of time or energy or thinking hat I’ve done previously? I mean, it kind of doesn’t come from nowhere. Is that fair?
Dr. Foster: 12:36 So you’re building upon what you already know. You are potentially having dialogue with other people. So you’re, sharing
ideas. You have a certain amount of clarity in your mind of where you wanna go. You also want to take the time to think things through, because that’s how you can improve upon your ideas and broaden them. And the other piece of it too, is that you wanna make sure that what you’re doing is something that’s manageable. You don’t wanna bite off more than you can chew so to speak. You wanna make sure that whatever you aspire toward is reachable. So that goes back to that step by step piece. It’s wonderful to have daydreams and aspirations and ideas for stories or poems or pictures or whatever you want. But you have to make sure that it’s doable.
Dr. Foster: 13:33 I remember speaking with you a couple of weeks ago, and I think I gave you this example – correct me if I’m wrong. But if for example, you wanna know more about stars and you want to find out about the constellations and you wanna get out there and really appreciate them, you can go to your balcony, you can go to your front porch, you can go wherever, close by and look at the stars and see them because everybody can see stars. They’re there for everybody’s enjoyment. But if you really, really wanna get a good look at them and you wanna understand them better, it’s going to require some research. It’s gonna require a little bit of learning. It’s going to require you to maybe go into a dark area with your family, get out there to some place where there’s no lights to interfere with your looking up at the stars, check out the weather to make sure you’re not going on a night when it’s all cloudy.
Dr. Foster: 14:23 Find out maybe when there’s a night, when there’s some sort of a special thing happening in the sky, whatever it might be, a light flare, whatever, but it means you have to, as a kid, ask for some help smetimes maybe if you wanna go that extra mile to see the stars, but you need to do the groundwork. You need to put forth that extra effort in order to be able to see more and then extend your ideas that much further, because remember that the wider the range of opportunities out there for you to learn, the more likelihood there will be that you’ll find some creative ideas and outlets and possibilities for yourself. So get past the porch, get past the backyard, get past the immediate and stretch yourself, stretch your horizons, literally and figuratively and find out all that you can.
Steve: 15:19 So you got a thought on some steps we can take to get our creativity into gear?
Dr. Foster: 15:26 Sure. So I’m gonna give you four steps and then I’m gonna follow that up with four action tips. So these are really concise and really easy for people to grasp and especially for kids to remember, which is really important because we want kids to take charge of their own creativity to take those reigns and to be creative. So the first action step is to value creativity, to understand that it’s important. If you already do value creativity, that’s wonderful. But if you don’t, then it’s important to think about why you don’t. Because as I mentioned before, it’s a choice you have to choose to be creative. So get out there and find out what it is that you value doing. Do you like wood, wire, wax? Do you like foam, fuzzy stuff, frames? Do you wanna visit a craft store?
Dr. Foster: 16:22 A fair a museum, talk to creative people, find out why they value creativity, because that’s the first step. Value creativity. If you don’t value it, you’re not gonna decide to use it. So that’s the first step. The second is, think about how you already use creativity. What is it that you do in your day to day life that makes you happy and that gives you a sense of pride and joy and how can you continue to do that? Think about your past successes and how you can actually use those in ways to advance your understandings, your learning, and your creativity. So the first is do you value creativity? The second is how do you infuse it? Think about that. The third is consider any limitations
that you might have. In other words, what’s stopping you from being creative and how can you address that?
Dr. Foster: 17:15 Who do you have to ask for help? Do your parents demonstrate how they’re creative? Can they help you get the stuff you might need? Whether it’s materials, pencils colored stuff, paints, rocks, sand – not necessarily a horse or a boat, but I’m talking about things that are more accessible that you might need in terms of space or materials and so forth. And then, the fourth point here in terms of an action step is to consider how you can share your creative experiences with others, because there’s a lot of benefits to that. People who will cheer you on, people who will reinforce your ideas, people who might help you get to next levels. So share those creative experiences at home, at school, in the community with others and that will help you build on them. So the four I’m just gonna review the four action steps. One, value creativity. And if you don’t figure out why not and what you might do to enhance that. Two, infuse it into your everyday life. Three, figure out what limitations you might have and four, share those creative experiences with others so that you can build upon them.
Steve: 18:34 As you started, I was wondering when you got to the fourth one, whether it was gonna be connected to celebration. So that would be safe to say, that’s part of the sharing?
Dr. Foster: 18:48 Absolutley. And you can celebrate the small steps. Celebrate unbirthdays, celebrate virtual campfires, as well as real ones, go on a treasure hunt, scavenger hunt, geocaching, have a tea party and wear those costumes and tiaras and feathered hats. Invite all the stuffed animals in the house to join you. Make it fun, make that sharing indeed a celebration of whatever it is makes you happy. And don’t be afraid to be unique and different. Each one of those characters who has a superpower is very unique. And the truth of it is every one of us is unique too. So yeah, we do have to celebrate that uniqueness and be creative about it and be our best selves. We wanna take time to celebrate our lives, our enjoyment of nature, our enjoyment of whatever it is around us that gives us meaning in terms of understanding our world.
Steve: 19:51 Well, Dr. Foster, thank you for everything you’ve shared with us here in this first session. I’m wondering if you wanna share with people what they can look for if they tune in to part two.
Dr. Foster: 20:04 Sure. So I was just talking about some of the things that you can do around being creative if you wanna see the stars, but there are many other ways also to exercise your creativity and to go through that process of building upon it. So in the next part of this podcast, what I’m going to talk about is how to nurture your creativity every day, how to figure out what might matter most for you as an individual and some of the different ways to identify your needs and interests, and also to build upon your skillsets.
Steve: 20:37 What’s the best way for listeners to follow up and learn more about your work or perhaps send a question that they have off to you?
Dr. Foster: 20:46 Well, thanks for asking. Anyone and everyone is welcome to go to my website. It’s joannefoster.ca – the ca is for Canada. I’m speaking to you from Toronto, Ontario. And so, joannefoster.ca – I have a resources page. I write a column for the Creativity Post so I have over 80 articles there around creativity. As I mentioned, I have seven books and I talk about creativity in a lot of those. I do presentations, there’s, on the resource page, lots of other podcasts and web webinars and presentations and so forth that we might wanna take a look at. And I’ve also written some articles around dealing with the pandemic and how to exercise creativity and resolve and so forth when dealing with some of the challenges of life. So again, joannefoster.ca and there’s a contact page on that website as well.
Steve: 21:39 We’ll be sure to to post your website in the lead-in to the podcast so if people didn’t catch it, they can go back and find it.
Steve: 21:48 Thank you.
Dr. Foster: 21:48 My pleasure. Thank you.
Steve [Outro]: 21:52 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.