Stretching our Creative Limits, Why it's Worth It

Here at COMPAS we truly believe that participating in creative activities helps us to thrive. In fact, we try to make time for doing just that in our personal lives. The way I exercise my creativity is through playwriting and working backstage at a middle school theater.

The CAST Receiving directions, as seen from backstage. Photo credit T. Krueger

The CAST Receiving directions, as seen from backstage. Photo credit T. Krueger

We’re currently staging The Bard is Back, a musical about a musical. Amid the usual musical shenanigans there are a few thoughtful moments…

During a rehearsal scene one character shouts out a line that every theater person can relate to: “This is really hard!” And there’s a quiet song called "My Own Four Walls" in which the soloist struggles as she sings about the imaginary walls she’s built to protect herself from the risk of showing her creative self to the world.

Of course, this being a musical, she powers through, signs up for auditions and gets a part. But these scenes got me thinking… Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Why do we keep putting ourselves into creative situations if they are hard and make us question ourselves? 

I know my answer to those questions (see above, regarding helping us to thrive), but I was curious what the middle schoolers thought. So I asked them. I left paper and pencils out and asked the kids to write a sentence or two in response to the question, “Why do you do theater?” Here are just a few of their answers:

“I thought being in theater would help me keep busy... Later I found that performing is a joy to me.”

“Theater has helped me a lot with my confidence and willingness to try to help people out when I can.”

“I like to do creative things because it makes my mind free.”

“Theater gives me confidence that I wouldn’t have without it.”

“It’s fun!”

“Theater is awesome because you get to express yourself in ways you might not be able to in a regular conversation.”

“Theater allows you to be involved in a community where everyone cares about you. You play a part (pun intended) in this community, bringing everyone together.”

And it wouldn’t be fair for me to not include one anonymous comment I received: “I was forced to do this play.” (Not sure if this is true or not; I can only report that everyone seems to be working hard and having fun now.)

Turns out the middle schoolers are on to something.

The article, "How Encouraging Kids' Creativity Makes Better Scientists," by Alex Pang Ph.D. (posted on Psychology Today’s website on Feb. 3, 2016) looks at research that followed scientists throughout 20 years of their careers. I encourage you to read it for the details, but for the summary, see above about creativity helping us to thrive.

~ Joan Linck, COMPAS Director of Strategic Development