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Creativity Can Be Stunted or Fostered Throughout Your Life

Updated: May 24, 2022

Never Stop Being Creative

By Michael Heath /

art by Mike Short
art by Mike Short

Dunce - Everyone is familiar with the term

The word easily conjures up characterizations of a slow-learning pupil sitting in the corner wearing a cone-shaped cap. Such a teaching method may seem like a humiliation from a bygone era, or is it? Can we do better in connecting children to what makes them tick rather than employ a one-size-fits all approach?

I recently bought a wall sculpture from my friend Mike Short who uses shoreline debris, including wooden shipping chocks, tennis balls, weathered survey stakes, and driftwood, to create unique pieces of abstract art. Mike is a bit of a rock star in the local art community, having shown his work in several galleries while solicited by top decorators for commissioned pieces. The art I purchased is titled Dunce due to its relative narrowness, white color and tapering top reminiscent of the conical caps once used to punish slower learners. Mike let on that the idea behind Dunce came from his own school experience, recalling how some teachers labeled kids like him who needed extra help as dumb. Fifty years later, frustration still laces a voice that recollected the condescending instruction and humiliation felt while attending summer school each year. Efforts to provide extra assistance were certainly well-intentioned, but more consideration could have been given to impressionable students who felt categorized as less smart than fellow classmates.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Everyone can recall certain subjects they struggled with or even dreaded. For me, two years of high school Spanish was an academic low point. To this day, the only Spanish phrase I can repeat is no habla espanol. I was also a slow runner and loathed any activity that measured speed; all the boys and most of the girls could outpace me.

It’s interesting that our education system emphasizes math, writing and reading skills but gives little credence to subjects such as art or music. Can you imagine a school classifying a child as a slow learner for not being a good artist? Maybe more consideration could be given to the student who is not strong in the traditional curricula but excels in drawing, acting or playing an instrument. A kid who does well in math and science is not necessarily “smarter” than a peer who struggles in those subjects but loves playing trumpet or writes beautiful poetry. The passions are different and so are the skill sets.

High schools across the country with administrations focused only on college admissions made a big mistake in doing away with industrial arts, thinking the curriculum irrelevant. Students who may have discovered a love for working with wood, metal or automobiles were short-changed by the move. As a result, our national workforce is now wanting for skilled workers to fill positions in housing, auto repair and other important industries.

We Are All Creators

The makers-of-things is not just the domain of novelists, sculptors, artists, designers, decorators and the like. Carpenters build houses, police officers produce safer neighborhoods and sanitation workers create clean streets. All jobs are essential and there should be few comparisons of who is smarter or more important. What is more crucial is finding what makes a person feel alive. Self-help guru Wayne Dyer used to say that “you are what you think about all day long.” If someone often thinks about firefighting, that is the career s/he should investigate.

At SelfPublishingUS, I often coach writers who may have been let down by the traditional publishing industry. They have a story to tell but are unsure if the public will ever get a chance to read it. It is a joy to speak with these authors and guide them from manuscript to printed book. I encourage all writers who have a passion for publishing a book to do so. It is not complex, and I am always here to help them along the journey. To quote Wayne Dyer once more, “you should never die with your book inside you.”

Never Stop Creating

The education system would do students a wealth of good if it focused more on children’s passions and gave them the tools to hone their skills. As Mike and I completed the art purchase he added a remark: “Michael, never stop being creative.” Sage advice from an artist who adds more to the world than many ever imagined.

For Mike Short artworks, go to Instagram

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