Although knowledge is helpful in being creative, more knowledge does not necessarily lead to more creativity. You can probably think of some people who are very knowledgeable indeed, but who do not do creative things with the knowledge that they have. This is because having knowledge, and being creative with the knowledge that you have, are two separate entities. Learning to be creative is a bit like learning to ride a bike. You cannot learn to ride a bike by reading a book about it. Even if you knew everything there was to know about bicycles, you would still be no closer to actually being able to ride a bike. You cannot learn to ride a bicycle by watching how other people do it, or by being told how to do it by someone else. These things may help you in your quest to understand bikes, or to develop a good riding technique, but they are not going to get you actually riding one. The only way to learn to ride a bicycle is to do it yourself.
I stand and watch as my daughter flies down the lane on her bicycle, her hair trailing behind her in the wind. “Look, no hands, mummy!” she shouts, lifting her fingers off the handlebars. She is confident, and balanced, and brave. How did she get here? Why, just a handful of years earlier, she was a tiny helpless baby, cradled in my arms! Well, first she had to learn to control her body – to support her head, to roll, to sit up, to stand, to walk. Just shy of a year old, she took her first tentative steps. We clapped with delight. She turned to smile at us and promptly toppled over. After a while she was confident on her feet. Now it was time for ‘my first trike’. To start with we pushed her along, but soon she took over – she was desperate to do it by herself. Her tiny feet on the pedals, pushing hard to create forward momentum. The desire to get somewhere, under her own steam, propelled her to learn. Next came a proper bike, with stabilisers attached. Stabilisers gave her confidence, and helped her practice, but they were also a comfort blanket, protecting her from the moment when she had to take the leap. Leaping is hard and falling is painful. Confidence is slow to build and easy to shatter.
Finally the day came when she was ready for us to take off the stabilisers. I gave her a push and helped her to balance the bike, by running behind her to steady it at the back. Eventually I let go. She wobbled, and then tumbled into a patch of nettles. Nettles sting. Mistakes hurt. But you cannot learn to ride a bicycle without falling off. Days passed – her confidence ebbed and flowed. She asked us to put the stabilisers back on for a while. But barely a month later, she was ready to try again. This time, when I gave her a push, she stayed upright for a time. We kept going. And going. And within a matter of hours, she was riding happily up and down the lane. If we want children to learn to be creative, they must take a series of baby steps first. We must help them feel confident to have a try, even when we are sure that they will fail. Building creativity is not about having as much knowledge as possible. It is not even about having the most brilliant technique. It is about nothing more or less than being willing to fail, and fall, and get up, and fail again, and fall again, and get up again. Until one day, to your surprise, you find yourself flying down the lane. Finally, joyfully, majestically! You are riding a bike.