Encourage Creativity

It would not be surprising to learn that punishing a child for being creative ends up inhibiting that child from being creative. Punishment can be direct or indirect. An indirect punishment might result from praising another child effusively, or could be self inflicted by the child comparing his/her work to that of another child.

However what may be surprising to some is that the opposite is also true. That praising a child for being creative often is as damaging as punishing that child. The similarity between punishing and praising a child for being creative is that both actions are focusing on something external to the work. In other words, the reason a child becomes less creative when punished for being creative is that the child begins focusing on avoiding the punishment. The same is true for rewarding a child for being creative. The child attempts to manipulate the viewer as an attempt to gain an award and the attention is taken away from the creative activity and placed externally towards deducing what will result in an award. In short, the best encouragement for being creative that a child can receive is the pleasure the child gets from the activity itself.

Taking this concept to a professional level can expose the danger of receiving awards. When a composer receives a prize, a rave review, or enthusiastic responses from the audience the composer can become trapped into attempting to recreate the work of art. The young composer may not even realize what triggered the reward, but will try to mimic what “worked.” The result is often that artists are unhappy despite their apparent successes. Those artists have replaced the joy of doing with the hope for external rewards.

This does not mean that one cannot avoid the pitfalls of receiving awards. If rewards are seen as opportunities to continue doing what one loves to do, they can be stimulating. One test of whether one has lost the joy of composing is to see what the composer does following winning a prize. Does the composer use the money to buy things or to buy more time to compose? Does the composer stop composing or does the artist enthusiastically jump into the next composition project? Does the composer remember longingly the early days before success or is the artist thankful for the chance to compose new work? To encourage creativity and to prevent creative blocks, artists should keep their eyes on the process, not the prize, for the real prize is more time to create.