I am not getting old, or maybe I am. This book has reminded me to be a child again. As always I have been reading like crazy. I just finished “Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius” by Erik Wahl. A book that has opened my ideas to how much and how often we try to fill in the blank, find the easy answer, and not use our brains. Early on in his book he explains this in such a succinct way:
“The short story goes like this: Our education taught us to memorize the predetermined answer or study the predetermined method in order to deliver the predetermined solution. There was nearly always one right way to one right answer, and an A+ job meant finding and then following that path repeatedly. There was rarely if ever room for what we so fondly call ‘thinking outside the box.’ You and I were rewarded for—often literally—making a check mark inside the right box. We were taught to be art critics but not artists. To think but not to unthink.” Page 17
How true is that? We were taught to score well on the SATs, to do well on standardized testing for our states and counties, because that is what determined if we were learning in school and if our teachers were doing a good job. Did it teach us how to think creatively? Did it teach us to solve problems? No, it taught us to fill out the correct answer on the scantron test and accurately use our #2 pencil in the oval, being sure not to color outside the lines. So how did we learn how to think outside the box?
I cannot remember when I started to think differently. At a certain point I think it happened in college when I got so sick of the status quo. A part of it had to do with being a woman and yet not treated fairly as a woman. It made me think I am going to do better than a man can do, I am going to learn what I can so that I can never be in a situation where I get stuck or cannot do something I cannot handle. I think it also was being so clear that I do not want to live how I grew up, that I wanted a better life. That desire and drive taught me that I do not want to live inside the right box. At a certain point we end up stuck in our ways, or our routine causes us to not take risks or live life differently. Which is why I love this quote that Wahl shares from Anais Nin:
“Older people fall into rigid patterns. Curiosity, risk, exploration are forgotten by them. You have not yet discovered that you have a lot to give, and that the more you give the more riches you will find in yourself. It amazed me that you felt that each time you write a story you gave away one of your dreams and you felt the poorer for it. But then you have not thought that this dream is planted in others, others begin to live it too, it is shared, it is the beginning of friendship and love…You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings.” –Anais Nin page 183
Aw man does that resonate with me. “…the more you give the more riches you will find in yourself.” We cannot give when we check the right boxes, when we fill out the scantron test. We give when we live outside of ourselves, and when we are raw, authentic, and real. Stop caring about the A+, and think like an artist…outside the box.