The Creative Mindset

Miller, Richard E and Ann Jurecic. Habits of the Creative Mind. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2016.

I’m not sure where I stumbled across the title to this book, but the idea of fostering creativity through composition courses is something I strive to do. This ‘textbook’ is designed to help students understand the mindset and thought processes involved in writing, especially academic writing, so students can learn to write like an Engineer, a Doctor, a xxxxxxxx. The book eschews the more common tips, tricks, approaches, process writing, and templates common to composition courses today.

Since I’m not teaching freshman composition, but Junior level composition I find this book especially intriguing. I have students who consider themselves fairly ‘set in their ways’ as far as mindset and learning and writing. They’ll spend additional time on assignments they find more meaningful, but they’ve figured out the thinking. So when I ask really broad questions as essay prompts, or ask them to create a system map to show the Writing Process my students attempt to make sense using their usual ‘student mindset’ for understanding an assignment – they ask for more specifics and guidelines. I respond with “what do you think it should look like” or “what do you think it means?”

On a side note I had a student describe me as providing ‘cryptic answers’ which I was ridiculously proud of.

Returning to Miller and Jurecic – their first chapter emphasizes the need to orient students to creative thinking, to understand how writing supports mindsets. I love this idea, but when dealing with Juniors and Seniors my question is how…….when asking Juniors and Seniors to then create something, how do I also frame this creative mindset to scaffold for the next task (today crafting!)?

Today I will try free writing with a broad prompt – just to help students begin to think creatively, in a way that values their ideas as individuals in the course. I’m worried that they’ll fall back on ‘traditional’ ‘student mindsets’ so I think having them write with pen/pencil/marker and paper will be the change to the activity that will prepare them to engage in new creative mindsets (since most students compose on computers now). Moving forward, i’m considering how to develop an orienting scaffolding activity to help students consider their student mindset as they engage in their Game Day quests to encourage critical thinking and engagement in new, recognizable ways.


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