Creative Behaviors Blog Series – Post Two

Supporting Your Creative Student: Encourage hard work

“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
-Chuck Close, American painter and photographer

The general public often stereotypes creative people as flakey, carefree spirits who don’t pay much attention to schedules or deadlines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creative people often exhibit intense concentration, working long hours when they are engaged in a project. In the last three years of his life, Vincent Van Gogh painted more than three hundred paintings, including many of his most famous works. Thomas Edison worked on more than 3,000 ideas for lighting systems before he evaluated them for manufacturing. Joseph Heller completed his novel Catch 22 by writing for two or three hours in the evening, after working at his regular job in advertising all day.

Successful creative people exhibit the ability to stick with a project, even through difficulty and rejection. Susan Cain, the author of the recent best-seller “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” reports she spent seven years writing her manuscript. The first Harry Potter novel was initially rejected by twelve different publishers. While creative people know that sometimes a new idea can seem to appear out of nowhere, they also know that it takes a lot of hard work to take a good idea and turn it into something real.

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, believes “… concentration is like a mental muscle.” He believes that concentration can be improved with practice.  “Watching ESPN while you work out at the gym,” he explains, “won’t help your brain learn to get better at whatever you’re doing.” Shifting attention between tasks all the time may train the brain to have a shorten attention span.

Practical suggestions for improving concentration include avoiding the use of social media while doing homework. Encourage teenagers to practice focusing by finishing a task all the way to completion. And when you see your student successfully concentrating, avoid the temptation to interrupt them.

Claudia Bear is a Da Vinci parent, with daughters attending Da Vinci Design and the Innovation Academy. She has a background in both science and the visual arts. In addition to practicing optometry, Claudia is a department manager with Kaiser Permanente, where she manages projects, develops leadership training for managers, and serves on the medical center’s Innovation Design Team.