Building Creative Confidence: Thoughts on David Kelley’s TED Talk

I have worked with children for over five years as a teacher in both schools and camps. Besides teaching my specialty in art and other subjects such as math, reading, writing, science, and history, there’s one thing I always noticed about kids that I never really discussed with my peers.  It’s how creative anxiety increases as the kids (and ourselves) get older.

When I was student teaching, I taught art once a week to kindergarten classes.  Even though I always took a nap after I came home, I enjoyed the kids’ enthusiasm and joy for art.  They used art materials to express their ideas in a way no other adult can. I enjoyed hearing them talk about their artwork.  From what I can remember, none of the kids I worked with had any real anxiety about art.  Of course, they would call out my name every 5 seconds and shout “Is this right?!?!” but for the most part, they truly enjoyed art and didn’t care if anyone thought that their ideas were crazy.

Example of kindergarten student’s work

When I started working with older kids (around 9 and up), I noticed more anxiety.  Phrases such as “I can’t draw” or “I can’t do this” were becoming common. I even made a sign that says “I can’t do this” crossed out in my ceramics windmill at camp.  It was frustrating because no matter how much I encourage, they feel that they are not “artists” and that they are not “creative.”  Those weren’t empty words.  I truly meant it when I told the reluctant kids that they are capable of making great works of art.  Luckily, there were a few kids that I worked with that never thought they can create amazing works of art.  Just like what David Kelley said in his Ted Talk, it was all about small steps.  I worked with those kids one-on-one and encouraged and praised every step of the way.  As students accomplish these small steps, they build up confidence ultimately leading to more creative risk taking.

A student’s work of art that was created with perseverance.

Something happens when we are growing up that makes us feel that we aren’t good enough or creative enough.  When did we start thinking that the world is divided into “creative” people and “non-creative” people?  Honestly, I don’t know how to relate to a person who feels that they’re “non-creative.”  Could it be because I always enjoyed art or maybe had an active imagination or some natural talent?  As an art teacher, it’s really easy to say “You can draw!” to a frustrated kid who’s probably thinking “Easy for you to say!  You already know how to draw!”  It’s my job to create an atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes and to encourage that frustrated kid every step of the way.  I have to constantly remember to put myself in that frustrated kid’s shoes.  Usually, I say something like, “Learning how to draw is the same as practicing the violin or throwing a football.”  There is such thing as natural talent.  Everyone has one but it’s nothing without a little practice and perseverance.  To me, that’s more important than talent.


How can one reignite their creative spark?

When do people start feeling “creative anxiety”?

How do you build your creative confidence?

Here’s David Kelley’s TED Talk


3 thoughts on “Building Creative Confidence: Thoughts on David Kelley’s TED Talk

  1. For me, It’s a matter encouraging limitless imagination — that’s it really. People instead focus on their limits it seems. It’s like how the Hip Hop culture started in the 80s In the South Bronx. Kids said, “We don’t have instruments, so we’ll use records. We don’t have canvases, so we”ll paint on trains. Our parents can’t afford ballet, so we’ll make ‘breakin” our dance.”

  2. Pingback: Instagram Fridays: Cold and Sweet Treats | abbyescart

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