Scrap Story #6: I’m Not Creative

Friday, September 16, 2011

At every event I work at, at least one person will come up and say, “Oh, this looks great, but I can’t do anything here, I’m not creative at all.” Or they’ll ask us to help their kid make something because they’re not creative enough to be useful.

We try not to let people get away with that.

When someone says, “I’m not creative,” usually I say, “Well this is the perfect place for you then, because it can look like anything and it’s impossible to do it wrong.”

Often we’re able to get people to start with something simple and work their way in that way, though sometimes they just won’t budge.

One of the things I love is when people come with their kids and are initially completely overwhelmed by everything, they have no idea where to start, and we tell them how we like to start — we start by looking in the barrels to see what’s there. Do you see anything you like? Do you see anything that looks interesting? Do you have any ideas?

Kids almost always will get an idea by about the third barrel they’ve looked in. And most of the time, that’s all they need, they’re off and running and need very little assistance after that.

Parents tend to over think things, they think they need to do something huge and elaborate when really, simple is best.

I’ve worked at Merlefest a couple of times and The Scrap Exchange at Merlefest is a complete madhouse for three straight days. There tend to be lots of 12-year-old boys running around which can get problematic; that age group really gravitates towards weaponry.

I remember one year working at Merlefest when the weapon thing was getting totally out of hand, we had to cut people off — we had one too many people come up and say, “Is this the place where you make guns?” Uh, no. It is not.

In the midst of that, however, someone came up and said, “Is this the place where you make baby dolls?”

It was a man and woman and their daughter, who was probably 4 or 5 years old. I said, “Yes, you can make baby dolls here. Or you could make something else, you can make whatever you want. Except guns. You can’t make those.”

The mom definitely seemed overwhelmed by the idea of making anything you want, she seemed not even quite sure she’d be able to handle the baby doll thing. Thankfully, she did not seem interested in making a gun.

She said, “Well, I’m not creative at all. Can you help me?”

I was working with Rowan, who runs the Outreach program and has worked at a lot of events and is much better than I am at helping people.

I said, “Rowan, can you help these people make a baby doll?”

So they started by looking in the barrels and talking about what they needed for their baby doll. Rowan said, “Let’s see, you need something for the body, right? Let’s look in the barrels and see what we might be able to use.”

So they started looking in the barrels and then the man said, “Wait, we could use this!” and he held out his empty plastic water bottle.

Rowan said, “Perfect! Let’s use that!”

So they went through the barrels and boxes and found some things to use for clothes, hair, decorations. And Rowan left them to their own devices and about an hour or so later they came up to thank us and to show us what they’d made and it was just amazing, it was the greatest baby doll you’ve ever seen. And they were so happy about it and their daughter loved it.

And these were the people who said they weren’t creative.

After being involved with The Scrap Exchange, I firmly believe that creativity is not a talent — something you are born with — but a skill — something you learn. Everyone with a brain is creative. Everyone is capable of coming up with creative ideas. Even people who say, “I’m not creative.”

Maybe even especially those people.


Help! The Scrap Exchange Needs YOU!

Visit the Scrap Exchange website for full details on our fundraiser, or to make a tax-deductible, online donation through PayPal or Network for Good.

Rather go old school? Checks can be made payable to The Scrap Exchange and mailed to 923 Franklin St, Bay 1, Durham, NC 27701.

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