Creativity Class: Week 3

Beware: Long post. Lots of words. Interesting content.

Class reflection

On Thursday, we explored a new style of creativity in class – acting – in silence.


Some of the activities I’d done before, but my favorite exercise was brand new to me. Those that I was already familiar with included The Machine, a team building exercise that I participated in as a senior in High School, and the Human Sculptures game. I learned this one when I was in kindergarten during a theatre camp in South Bend, Indiana. Over the years, I’ve convinced my friends to play this from time to time. (It was usually better received by my theatre friends, go figure.)

I think games like these can be stimulating at any age because they’re creatively challenging for the individual and equally entertaining to watch what other people are doing.

The last exercise of the day had everyone sitting on the edge of their seats.  I’m not sure what it was called, but the goal was to … well … I suppose the purpose was left up for interpretation. One person would volunteer to be the director and they could use the stage to create a living painting, sculpting each character in a specific position. The theme was ‘The American Family.’ The director could then cast whomever he or she wanted to play different roles within the “The American Family.” Then, the audience guessed who they thought was who and what scene the director had created. The actors also had the opportunity to guess who they thought their character was by adding actions and sound to the position they were originally sculpted in. It was really interesting because everyone seemed to have different interpretations of what they were looking at.

For example, imagine the director created a scene that looked like this one from Modern Family:

Modern Family copy

Person #1 may think Jay is a single father, Gloria is his daughter, and Manny is his son. Or maybe Manny is Gloria’s son and Jay’s grandson, but they all live together.

Person #2 may think Jay and Gloria are a married couple and Manny is their adopted son. Or maybe Jay and Gloria are living together and Manny is their biological son.

Person #3 may think Jay and Gloria are a married couple, but Gloria is Jay’s second wife and we are only seeing half of Jay’s family here. Manny is their biological son. In this case, person #3 would be correct. (However in this game, the director never gives you the correct answer, because the purpose is to leave the ‘correct response’ up to the eyes of the beholder.)

Person #4 may think Gloria and Manny are cousins, Jay is their grandfather and they are the only family members alive after a catastrophic disaster that killed the rest of their loved ones.

Do you have another interpretation? Comment below!

The point is, you cannot assume you know who these people are. Everyone may interpret the characters’ relationships and personalities differently, and our interpretations are based on our own personal experiences. In the same way, we may never know exactly what the great artists were thinking when they painted, sculpted, composed, wrote, or performed their work. But I do not believe that art is about right answers. It is about affecting people, stirring an emotion, eliciting a thought.  The beauty lies in the variety of responses.

Reading response

I read the first paragraph in Chapter 2 of Understanding Creativity, three times. I really like this theory by Wallas:

There are four stages of the creative process. In the first stage the person … gets herself ready for the act of creation by studying, thinking, searching for answers, asking people, and so forth. In the second stage, the process rests, is in gestation, the person is pregnant with the creative product. The unconscious is working on the problem. In the third stage, a solution arises and light is thrown on the problem. Then the person works to complete the problem.

This makes perfect sense to me! Creativity is a process. In order for that ‘ah-ha’ moment to occur, we must cultivate it with these first two steps. I think we often grow impatience with ourselves if we can’t think of a great solution immediately, I know I do. I assume, I’m in a room of creative people, we should be able to come up with something pretty spectacular by the end of this meeting. What’s missing, though, is that precious waiting period where we need to trust our subconscious to ponder and fuel our ideas.

My high school choir teacher would teach us a song one week, we’d practice it the next week, and then she’d tell us to rest on it. She trusted that if we came back to it a month later, not only would we remember what we learned, it would also be better. Why? Well, I think it’s because when we don’t over-think it, we allow our emotions to come alive. We start to feel the music.

In Chapter 2, Piirto also talks about how extrinsic motivation might stifle creativity. Again, I agree. When I practice singing for a competition or an audition, I am more concerned with the technicalities and how the judges might assess me than I am with taking creative risks, which have the potential of bringing out artistic expression.

This brings me back to my first blog post My Quest for Creativity; if we continue to assess the success of students based on their ability to perform well on tests that require mere memorization, our schools are stifling their ability to think creatively in the classroom. Especially in grade school, I often felt that there was only one way to approach my classes – I didn’t have the time or opportunity to really question what I was learning and think outside the box. That wasn’t going to get me an A.

creative idea


After the 8-inch snowfall Tuesday, I went outside to take some photos of the trees. In light of the “American Family” exercise, I decided to try to capture the winter trees at different angles. The photo below was my favorite. I love how nature can look so colorful, and then sometimes it appears to be so black and white.

snowy branches

transformative project update

Sketching ballerinas takes a lot longer than I thought, and there have been a couple of days where I can’t find the time to sit down and draw. I think this is completely my fault, though, as I am too concerned with the picture looking good. A sketch is not meant to be a masterpiece. I need to be more strict on the 15 minute time limit, even if I cannot finish the drawing, in order to really experience the effects of this transformative project.

If you liked this post, check out my other posts about creativity here:


One thought on “Creativity Class: Week 3

  1. Ok, you can ignore the first “test” reply. 🙂

    South Bend, Indiana . . . that’s not too far from where I grew up in Southwestern Michigan. Are you from South Bend?

    Some people think that playing games in class is childish–but I disagree. For one thing, games can provide excellent strategies for learning. For another, playing games can put us into a creative “flow” state and perhaps even a “childlike” state, in which enthusiasm and even wonder aren’t considered “childish.” Plus, I think we learn different things from a game depending on our ages and the experiences we’ve had since the last time we played the game . . . which comes back around to the point about how we interpret things based on our own personal experience.

    I learned about the four-step model of creative process when I was an undergrad. My teacher talked about the first step in a way I’ve always remembered. He said that first stage is about “feeding” my unconscious, and that if I don’t give it a lot of good stuff to chew on, it can’t come up with great ideas.

    I didn’t know that you’re a singer! Perhaps someday you’ll sing for the class?

    I love how you transferred concepts from the “American Family” exercise to the winter trees photography. Strong photo!

    Your reflection on your transformative project is valuable. Good insights. We learn more from making mistakes than from easy victories.

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