Yesterday on facebook, my friend commented on a link posted by one of her friends. This friend of mine is a highly creative, seems proud to be eccentric type. She’s also as kind and compassionate and grounded as can be and that as much as her creativity, is what draws me to her. My daughter, however, is a creative soul, and in her three years of having this woman as a parent helper in her classrooms, depended on her in some way for access to a world not normally present in traditional school.

The article is called The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People are Eccentric. Here’s a link. I recommend it, as you can imagine.

I read it last night before going to sleep, my girl beside me, begging me to shut down the computer. I read her the title, told her it was fascinating and I wanted to finish, a rare treat of vacation for me, the finishing of an article someone has commented upon and which I want to read. I asked her if she thought she was creative and eccentric and she said yes to creative, wondered what eccentric means. When I said it means you aren’t afraid to be different, she said yes, turned over, and went to sleep.

While I slept last night I dreamed my creative daughter was dressed quite eccentrically, in a yellow flowered dresss with a a decorative sash around her middle, a style she loves for herself which often makes me wonder where she got the idea, and a hat of some sort, another accessory to which she is much attracted. She doesn’t seem to care at all what other girls wear. She loves colors, certain fabrics, patterns, comfort, style, not trends.

The dream was full of other images I wish I could remember. When I wake this morning, it is in a dark room and my children are asleep, so I lay awhile and dream and let my mind wander. I read somewhere awhile back, when I was having many vivid dreams and waking often in the night or early morning, that these are the creative moments in our brains. Since reading that, I have relaxed into the sleeplessness and intense dreams, wondering what they’ll bring, rather than worrying about lack of sleep or craziness.

Shelley Carson is the author of the Scientific American article. Here is the About the Author from the end of the article.

SHELLEY CARSON is a lecturer and researcher at Harvard University, where she teaches creativity, abnormal psychology and resilience. She is author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life, recently published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, with Harvard Health Publications.

Reading her article, and her short bio make me wonder in the early morning hours about how eccentricity and creativity or the diminished filtering of ideas, which is what a good bit of the article is about, a supposed common link between the two, play out in the lives of my children and others I know. I think about our days in Washington, DC, where the ideas and stimulation were to us, in the words of my children beside me in the Museum of Natural History, begging to get out, Overwhelming. The ability to not filter out ideas or to let them in without becoming overwhelmed is what Shelley Carson describes as a key to creativity, and also a feature of eccentricity. She goes on to say that those who see dreams as portending the future, who are not afraid to dress as they please, who may even believe they are being directed from others who have died, or see spirits around them which others cannot, share some things in common with schizophrenics, but are not disfunctional so much as highly creative and eccentric, if they are intelligent and functional, they may have schizotypal personalities, if they are detached from reality and dysfunctional, they may be schizophrenic. Hmm.. feel I am simplifying a bit and hope you will read the article yourself and make (and possibly share) your own interpretations.

How then do I take this back to raising three very different children, to working with children in the West Family Day Care, to creating a new school? Certainly Sudbury Valley School where my children are now, is full of eccentrics, some of whom found other schools unlivable, some of whom are on a stop along the way to finding a place that works. When my middle child told me that a major difference between Sudbury and his former school was the ability to think his own thoughts at SVS, that comment stuck. How can people think genuinely creative, original thoughts if they are being told what to do and made to listen rather than being free to think and imagine for much of the day? This is not to say that all of our creative ideas come from inside, but the Scientific American article does suggest that highly creative people may be more attuned to their inner thoughts because they don’t filter out as much, and therefore have somehow got a very rich inner life. And certainly, the ability to sense and make our own connections is a key to creativity.

I also wonder about my book, In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia, which talks a lot about the rights of the child, about the need for children to be making meaning and experiencing life, to be protagonists in significant projects. The respect for creativity and individuality and the support for significant collaboration amongst and between children and adults draw me to this philosophy in a way that is very similar to the way I was drawn to the Sudbury model and which I wonder and wonder how to create in a publicly funded charter school with testing and standardization and particular curriculum that must be covered..a big fat puzzle I can think on as I drive and drive and drive..time to get on the road..many hours ahead for the mind to wander in hopes of new territory or connections with stuff already in there waiting to come out.

Last but not least, today’s poem from WA, to illustrate the poet’s openness to ideas, the unfiltered images that emerge and connect and reform brought here to you as a daffodil in telephone’s clothing..and other surprising, other-to-you images that make you think and feel and live and breath. Happy Spring, May Swenson’s way.


by May Swenson

Yellow telephones
in a row in the garden
are ringing,
shrill with light.

Old-fashioned spring
brings earliest models out
each April the same,
naïve and classical.

Look into the yolk-
colored mouthpieces
alert with echoes.
Say hello to time.

“Daffodils” by May Swenson, from Nature: Poems Old and New. © Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)