Recently I ran into one of my biggest fears. The week was drawing to a close and I did not have any thoughts or new material for a weekly passage that I write for teachers. (Those weekly passages helped give birth to this blog.)
I am a believer in a theory I termed, “Just Start Writing.” I find that when I start to put words to the page, my creative juices start to flow, the blank page disappears, and a passage (at least in rough draft form) is completed.
What follows is a reflection that I originally wrote for teachers, but I believe the bigger message can be applied for all.
Sometimes it is fun to just start putting words to paper and seeing where the words and my mood take me. Usually, once the mind is activated, in addition to the words, ideas also start to develop. These ideas then become the basis for passages that can be worked into something meaningful.
At other times, I find research can spark the dormant creativity inside me.
It was while I was facing a blank page that I decided to do some research on Franz Schubert since I was listening to one of his Piano Sonatas.
To start, I looked to various areas of the life of Franz Schubert to find inspiration but I continually came up empty. For whatever reason, nothing about his life struck a chord with me.
Next, I searched for some quotes attributed to Schubert. That was where I hit gold. The quotes woke up my inner writer. After reading a few words attributed to Schubert, I was thinking and writing once again.
I recommend playing Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major as you continue reading. (It just works better that way.)
“I try to decorate my imagination as much as I can.”
How great is that quote?
Imagination is, of course, creative, yet Schubert doesn’t just say “Hey go imagine something.” He doesn’t say, “I like to imagine nice things.” He says more. A lot more.
Schubert says something that we, as adults, do not consider very often, but that children understand inherently as part of their very being – imagination is powerful and wonderful and special. For children, imagination is part of who they are. They imagine constantly. It is a beautiful thing. We can learn from children.
As adults, we often lose the magic of imagination because we are deeply rooted in the world (the often cynical world) of the here and now. Reality can be crushing to imagination.
Children feel much freer and seem much more able to imagine. We should try to find our inner children and relearn this skill. Imagination can open up doors that were previously closed and help people achieve things that they may have never thought possible.
Every great idea first began as a dream. Dreams are formed in our imaginations.
Schubert understood that imagination is important. That is why he said, “I take the time to decorate my imagination.” He worked at it. Imagine that! (No pun intended.) Schubert worked at fostering his imagination.
Franz Shubert knew that the greatness that was within him wouldn’t come out unless he fostered it. Like anything else, Schubert knew that in order to enhance a skill, he had to work at it. He became a gifted musician, in part, because he took the time to practice imagining.
I believe that the ability to imagine is an essential part of a well-balanced life. Imagination is a skill that we need to encourage and develop in schools. We need to make time, in every class, to allow children to imagine – to think creatively, to come up with new ways to solve problems, to design, to develop, and to wonder.
One of the big movements in education right now is centered on the idea of Maker-Spaces. This growing philosophy and practice has the potential to allow children to positively use their imagination and creativity as part of the learning process.
I’ll share one last thought as it ties to imagination. (Warning – This could be a paradigm challenging idea for some teachers.)
The seemingly disinterested student looking out the window during class or the student that is doodling might be working harder at a skill (the skill of imagination) than any of the other children in the classroom at that moment.
The key is that we have to engage that child so that he or she puts those efforts to use for a constructive purpose in the classroom. We must make the most of every moment –and part of that means making time for imagination.
Which brings us to a second quote from Schubert that struck me…
“The moment is supreme.”
I like this quote for many reasons. Mostly, though, I think it speaks to an idea that often grows out of imagination… the idea of greatness. (I think when most people imagine, they imagine possibilities, opportunities, greatness…)
This quote says that the opportunity for greatness is now. Right now. This very instant.
We live our lives in three directions. At times, we look back at the past. We think back to decisions (good and bad) and choices that we have made. We look back at events. We remember and we reflect.
At other times we look to the future. In a very real sense, these are exercises in imagination.
It is true that we make decisions that we hope will result in the future we are planning, but the process in thinking about and planning what could happen is really just an exercise in imagining what will happen if our plans go the way we intend them to.
(That child looking out the window, working hard at imagining, might be planning something great…)
The final direction that we live in is the present. The now. Right now. This very instant. The power of the moment is that we have the opportunity, now, to make changes that can change our lives and make our lives better.
We can resolve to eat better, exercise more, take more time to be thankful, spend more time with family, read more, practice a skill more…(the possibilities are endless)…NOW. We can do those things to help us realize the better future we imagine.
The moment is supreme because the moment is what we have control over. It’s the only part of our life that we have any direct control over.
We can determine, now, to make any positive change in our lives.
To think about the power that The Moment has, can be, in a very real sense, overwhelming. But it shouldn’t be. It should be empowering. Right now there are people resolving to fulfill some of their own life’s dreams. They are taking a step outside their comfort zones and embracing all the thrills, joys, and disappointments that come with waking up dormant energy and ideas and pushing forth into the unknown.
Teachers and, dare I say, all adults (parents, grandparents, volunteers) have the power, each day, to excite kids and turn them on to so much. This includes learning, but it can be expanded to kindness, compassion, empathy, understanding…and so much more.
Our opportunity is now, but so are the chances and opportunities for our children. One responsibility of adulthood should be teaching children that they have the power to make critical decisions that will positively shape their lives, to not be passive, but rather to seize the moment and seize the day. Kids have only one chance to be whatever they are at the time. They get one chance at first grade. One chance at fifth grade. One. And once childhood and innocence are gone, they don’t come back.
The moment is supreme. When we live in the moment (with our sights and our decisions also focusing forward toward our future), we can become our very best selves. When we teach this to children, we can help them become their very best selves as well.
Abraham Maslow developed a theory based around his Hierarchy of Needs. In this he is saying, “We must take care of the needs of the moment, and only when they are being met, can we self-actualize.”
Our job is to help each child meet those needs so they can self-actualize and work (and live) to their potential.
When one balances maximizing the moment with imagination (a rich vision for the future), he goes a long way to taking control over his own destiny. This is one way that we can help children to be successful.
The very best thing about living in the moment is that at every moment you get a new one to live.
Spend those moments well!
(Please follow me on Twitter: @DrPaulRSem)