In this post, GrubStreet instructor Ben Berman discusses how learning to think flexibly can help us be more creative.
Flexible thinking refers to our ability to shift or reframe how we are thinking about an idea.
When psychologists measure one’s aptitude for creativity, they often focus on this aspect of thinking. How many uses can you find for a brick? they ask, before grading the responses based on fluency, originality, flexibility and elaboration.
Take a sharpie away from my three-year-old and she will invoke Whitman, will begin sounding her barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
But plop her on the toilet and the scene is much more reminiscent of the Romantics – as she ponders philosophical questions, her imagination wandering wildly and her intonations somewhere between speech and song.
Last night, my two-year-old spent the evening dropping fistfuls of fried rice from her high seat while singing Humpty Dumpty had a great faaaaall!
I probably should have intervened – taken her bowl away or redirected her. At the very least I should have stopped making sound effects every time the rice hit the carpet.
But as a poet, I’ve developed the ability to detach myself from my parental responsibilities and view my kids, instead, as adorable little metaphors.
A poet, wrote Randall Jarrell, is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.
Maybe it’s just the season that’s upon us but to me the creative process feels a lot less like standing in thunderstorms waiting for lightning than trudging through snow, desperately trying to clear a path.
Because I tend to write in the mornings and play with my daughters in the evenings, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between children's games and the writing process.
Most of the time, the link is a bit of a stretch.
Hide and seek has potential to offer some common ground – writing, after all, is a process of discovery – but there are only a few good hiding spots in our condo, and my three-year-old is content to hide in the exact same spot ten times in a row.