The four-year olds were creating sky by tearing white construction paper into cloud shapes and gluing them to a sheet of blue. As I wandered around I peered over the shoulder of one little girl who had made a story by adding a tree, a figure, other details. It was wonderful. Just then the teacher came up. "Oh, no, dear, you’ve done it wrong. You’re only supposed to put the white clouds on your paper. Here, I’ll take that and give your more paper so you can do it again and do it right."
I don’t know about you, but I was so dismayed I felt physical pain. Think about this exchange, and how many times it happens to children every day, starting at very early ages. Maybe it happened to you. What do you think that four- year old learned that day? How much harder will it be for her tomorrow, to do something different, to see the world from her unique point of view?
There is a very common test, the Guilford Alternative Uses Test, designed to identify people who are creative. Did you ever encounter this? "Name all the uses for" a brick, paperclip, etc. In the past I was terrible at answering questions like this, and thus confirmed in my suspicion that I was not creative.
Recently I was asked by my writing coach Sandy Wright to choose an object and write about it . I chose my old nemesis, a paperclip. But this time I looked at it and thought, " what could a paperclip be? What else has this shape?"
Once again I was struck by the power of changing the question. Let me show you the results of 10 minutes of viewing a paperclip and wondering what it could be…..
Silver spiral galaxy
fits in my hand.
A journey passing the same towns
coming and going.
full of opening
Binding what belongs
Make straight the pathway of the Lord.
encircle the city
to keep it safe.
glinting in the sun.
Bent out of shape,
The right question. Or, at least, a better question, one that opens instead of closes, one that leads to more rather than less, to more creativity, to more spaciousness of spirit.
Are you stuck, going round and round about something in your life? Change the question. Find a question that is more useful to you. One approach is to change the question into a "being" rather than a "doing" question. And what happens if you state it in the present time, instead of the past or future?
What could your paperclip be?
paperclip from iStockPhoto