Teachers Write: Nurturing Creativity

Can you believe it’s almost October?  These first weeks of school are so crazy for teachers that you probably need some ideas for how to regroup and reclaim that summer creativity. Guest author Donna Gephart joins us today with some tips!

Now that you’re back to school, it’s vital to feed and nurture your creative spirit.  These tips, ideas and resources will help you stay creative throughout the year. 
1.  TAKE TIME OFF to renew, refill and relax. 
            Read a great book . . . or a trashy one.  Kick back with a fun magazine.  A comic book.
            Yoga and meditation encourage the brain’s alpha waves.  These alpha waves are linked to relaxation and creativity. 
            Get out!  Walk in a park or by the beach.  Paddle a kayak, ride a bike, climb a mountain!
            Make something – jewelry, a bird feeder, a pie.  (If you make a peach cobbler, please send it to me!)
            Take time off from screens.  Give your brain a break from the constant stimulation.  I enjoy screen-free Sundays whenever possible – no TV, computer, smart phone, etc.  On screen-free Sundays, I connect more with people, nature and books.  (And the pooches!)
            Anne Lamott, author of the well-loved book – Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life — called this initial failure crummy first drafts. (She actually uses a different adjective, but we’ll go with crummy. It’s a classroom-friendly blog.)
            Let go of that damaging mindset of writing something perfect the first time.  I don’t know a single author who creates a “perfect” first draft.  And if I did, I’d have to kill him (just on principle). 
            Nothing is written as much as it’s rewritten.  Get comfortable with your first efforts being messy.
            My friend, Donald Vaughan – a successful free-lance writer – once said, “I’d rather have a bad page than a blank page.”  Amen!  It’s much easier to work with a lousy page than an empty one.
            Don’t compare yourself to others.  You don’t need to be Shakespeare or Steinbeck.  Somebody already was Shakespeare and Steinbeck.  You simply need to be the most authentic you that you can be.  No one can write like you.  No one has had the same experiences or ways of looking at those experiences. 
            And by the way, a  “crummy first draft” does NOT indicate failure.  It indicates practice and doing the work.  It’s merely part of the process.  (No need to be so focused on the end result.)
            Imagine:  How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer dissects creativity. 
            My favorite part of the book was where he explained that after the most frustrating blocks, when all seems hopeless, creative ideas spring. 
            Listen to an interview with Jonah Lehrer on Katie Davis Brain Burps About Books KidLit Podcast.
            The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a staple on creativity.  Her idea of morning pages – writing when you first wake – changed my writing output.  I used to walk the dogs, exercise, eat breakfast and check e-mail before I wrote.  I squandered my best writing time! 
            Now?  I wake and write.  The number of pages I produce has jumped dramatically.  The dogs still get walked, the e-mails still get answered, etc. – just later in the day . . . or the next day.  (In fact, I wrote this entire post in a creative burst first thing one morning.)
            Read my blog post about 6-1/2 tips to stay creative from guest blogger, Paul Grecian, who is a professional nature photographer.  Scroll through the comments for more great tips and ideas about staying creative.  (Sorry, the giveaway on the post has ended.)
            a.  Join or start a writer’s group.  (Check out S.C.B.W.I. critique groups in your area.)
            b.  Go to readings, concerts, dance performances, plays, ethnic celebrations, local festivals, museum exhibits, etc.
            c.  Gather a few creative friends – artists, writers, performers – and discuss ideas, while enjoying snacks and beverages.
            d.  Watch a TED talk to become inspired.  I love this one by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity.  Of course, there’s the blog post about Kate Messner’s TED talk.  I love these lines from the post:  “Kids are naturally gifted world-builders. They have brave imaginations, wild fresh ideas, and are not afraid of messing up.”
Sometimes, structure and limitation don’t reign in creativity, but allow it to expand to fill the parameters.  With that in mind, have fun with this word-limiting creative writing prompt:
You’ve heard of six-word memoirs, right? 
            For this prompt, write a six-word description of yourself.
            e.g.  Will write for food.  Prefer royalties.
 Six more words for you:  Have fun.  Stay creative.  Write on!


 Donna Gephart’s humorous writing has appeared on greeting cards, in national magazines and on refrigerator magnets.  Her middle grade novels have won a number of awards, including the Sid Fleischman Humor Award.  Her newest novel, OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN — about a Jeopardy!-obsessed twelve-year-old — received excellent reviews, including a starred Kirkus review.  For free resources for teachers and librarians (and a funny singing hamster video), visit Donna at http://www.donnagephart.com.

14 Replies on “Teachers Write: Nurturing Creativity

  1. Donna, thank you so much for the mention of my Brain Burps About Books podcast!

    I have to say though, you might want to think before wasting your money or time on Jonah Lehrer’s book. It was discovered after the book was a huge bestseller that he lied, and made up facts and quotations. So how can we believe *anything* he says?! (Don’t get me started…) I did add a preface to my interview with him talking about this.

    Kate, this is a great guest post – thanks for giving Donna the opportunity to share this info!

  2. Great post Donna. Let’s see, six words to describe me…
    Writer Creator Mom of Teenagers Survivor.
    How’s that? (That last word is about surviving life with 3 teenagers and stil being sane… most days). Thanks for the inspirational words. And thanks, Kate for having Donna on your blog. It was a delight to meet you at the NESCBWI conference. Hope to see you there again this year.

  3. Have gotten scattered. Must get gathered.

    Thanks for a prompt I could fit in, and the reminder of how important it is to take time for creativity. Even six words gave me a moment to catch my breath before tackling my Saturday teacher catchup plans.

    1. Wendi, loved your comment. I think we ALL have gotten scattered and must get gathered. Glad you could catch your breath before tackling Saturday’s teacher catch up plans!

  4. One thought, one teaching idea, and six more words… (1) Thanks for the resources and recommendations, Donna. I loved Donald Vaughan’s quote about a bad page trumping a blank one. I’ll be sharing that with the middle-schoolers with whom I work. (2) I repurposed the six-word memoir idea for my students to use in posting online book recommendations to our class blog: six words to sum up the story + six more words to give an opinion about it = what I call, the dirty dozen! (3) As for my own memoir: Teacher, writer, cook, relaying countless recipes.

    1. Brian,

      Loved your comment! And I think your “dirty dozen” idea for students to give book reviews is brilliant. Thanks for sharing it.

      Perfect memoir, too. Sounds like you live a very creative life that brings great joy to others.

      All best,

  5. Walking down steps in dark-tripping

    Metaphorically speaking of course, not sure how many steps there are…I will eventually learn the routine…hoping the school year gets better.