Thursday, April 9, 2015

When did I forget trying to be creative ?

Before writing this article, I tried to get lost as I did in my Art350 class for half an hour. In that 30 minutes, I did not open any electronic devises, meaning my phone and my computer was turned off. The only thing I had was a pen and my notebook. I want to write down what I thought in that 30 minutes in an organized way ( I drew a flow chart on my notebook).

When did I forget trying to be creative ? It was the first question coming to me. The reason why I do not use 'stop' but 'forget' here is because that happens gradually and unconsciously. When I look back I know it happened sometime in my life. Then I tried to answer this question by analyzing the two common excuses we used to answer the question 'why not be creative ? 'during our discussion. 

The first one is simple: I do not have enough time to do that. Not enough time ? What did I do with my time ? The answer would be taking more than 20 credits. Why did you take so many credits ? Because things I learnt in that class could be useful when I am looking for a job. How did you know that ? Because there are examples of my classmates and friends taking the same class and get a job. I stopped at here and looked backwards to find if there is anything wrong. The initial motivation is trying to follow other's successful path and hope to get the same successful result. Nothing wrong here since most people want to learn from others by mocking and those great names are among them as well. Taking more than 20 credits ? Anything wrong here? I think it will be fine as long as you can understand and make the most of the course contents. But here comes the problem: most students judge the 'understand and make the most of course content' as getting an A for the course. Even worse, judge 'The knowledge learnt in all classes' how many As they get in total'. Without doubt, getting an A for a class is highly correlated with 'understanding and making the most of the class'. If I want to build a model for that, getting an A or not probably will be the variable I will choose and the model will probably have a pretty high R^2. However, that does not mean it is a good model without looking at the diagnostics. There could be some confounding factors that correlates with both our dependent and independent variables. Trying to be creative or being in flow could be the confounding variables here. A spurious relationship between 'Understanding and making the most of your classes' and 'How many As students can get in total' would occur if the estimate fails to account for a confounding factor. In other words, the same thing could happen between 'getting a job' and 'getting a lot of As'. So we can see the problem of mocking other's successful path, There are always variables you can not observe or you won't observe unless you look close enough. But these variables are crucial. 

The second one is that there is no immediate reward of being creative and sometimes it is even not encouraged. I still remember at the first year of my high school, I like to spend time on reading articles and books  not related to my coursework. Arguing on an interesting topic in the book with my friends between classes is very enjoyable. But after the first year, we are not allowed to read books  other than text books. My teachers even punish us for doing that and all the books will  be confiscated. They want us to focus on the college entrance exam rather than spending time on meaningless things. Gradually, I  agree with them on their opinions and think it bad to break those rules. Just like what we discussed before, if people have no experience of being creative and do not know why creativity could be beneficial for a long time, they will tend to think being creative will be inefficient. In that case, copying others' successful path seems to be an alluring option.

This article is about analyzing my personal experience and may not be the case for other people. But I think it answers the question for me 'When did I forget trying to be creative'. 


  1. It's interesting to bring up the idea for confounding variables that could affect the real relationship between between the cause and the result. When we just mock the behaviors by observing such as "choosing some courses and get all As" or "just focusing on what is important for resume and future career", we are giving out the college life to others and never make it personal.

    And the experience in high school Yuchen mentioned actually is interesting to me. It reminds me of my high school teacher, who gave us a whole class every week to read some traditional Chinese literature and write some review and thoughts on that accordingly, which is not related to exam at all. She always told us that reading and writing can set us free. I don't know if any other teachers in my high school did that. But she must be one of the minority. When the authority tries to discourage creativity and try to limit people's thinking, that would be really harmful especially for young people because the best thing they could do is imitating rather than creating.

    Actually during this week I did spend some time without any electronics (I took the bus to Walmart alone and it took about half an hour to get there). During the trip I didn't do anything with my phone and found it pretty enjoyable to just looking outside when the bus passed through the neighborhood. Then I just thought about the meeting I had with my coach that afternoon. She told me she noticed some changes on me when she first met me last year. I told her I do feel more comfortable when I speak in the public or even step into some business offices to ask for funding. In terms of creativity, I actually thought I became more critical than I was before and be more willing to try new things or new ways of doing things even when I know there is some risks. I looked back through the experience I had in the last two years and reflected to myself what I've improved and what still needed to be improved. The time I spent to make some reflection can really intrigue a deeper understanding or give me chance to look at things from a different way.

  2. I really want to agree, and even sympathize about the part ' there is no immediate reward of being creative and sometimes it is even not encouraged.'

    Everyone knows that being creative is a concept that should be encouraged, not only for personal development, but also for the advancement of the mankind. It is creativity (with some other elements, of course) that made possible the technology revolution and the convenience that we are enjoying these days.

    However, on the personal level, creativity does not show the results immediately. Studying often gets compared to games in Korea for how fast the results show up. For instance, if one is competent in gaming and studying alike, the required time for one to achieve higher personal skill level in games that require skills (for instance, understanding of the mechanism, how to micro-control, etc.) is actually few days. However, trying to get skilled in a certain class or a course requires at least a semester, and even more depending on various factors. One of the factors that people getting addicted to games and not getting addicted to studying as a conclusion was 'how fast the visible results show up.' I believe that getting the fruit of being creative is much more enduring and sophisticated compared to studying, and thus, that fact acts as one of the factor that hinders the act of being creative.

    On a social level, although I've not gone through such a coercive high school year as Yuchen did, I almost exactly understand how that atmosphere feels like. The only difference about my school to Yuchen's school was that the students in my high school were creating an atmosphere by themselves. The competition was quite severe, and as a student in one of the best high school in Korea (I'm sorry, now I'm blushed by stating my high school as one of the best in Korea...), they acted as if they knew by instinct what would follow them if they failed to enter a prestigious university. As a result, the atmosphere was quite stiff, and no one actually tried to be creative among the students who aimed for university inside Korea.

    Society nowadays focus more on the result than the process. This is not always the case, but I would actually call it 'quite general' about this phenomenon. Mass production and globalization contributes to the uniformity of thoughts for people to be more efficient and productive.

    Creativity can actually help us to be more efficient and productive, but it requires much more input, including the most valuable resource, 'time'. The social trend, sadly, is leaning towards being productive instead of being creative, in my opinion.

  3. The paragraph that starts, "The second one is that..." seemed tragic. It made me think of the Pink Floyd song Another Brick in the Wall.

    Incidentally, that you liked to read things and argue with friends is THE REWARD. Doing what you like to. I wonder if now you do that on occasion, or if that pleasure has been taken from you by your high school experience.

    If I'm right in the previous paragraph about what the reward is, then you and David are making an intellectual error, confounding the product with creativity rather than the process.