One of the books that my AP Lang students read is Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist (the other is 1984; they make an interesting pair). I actually had the opportunity to meet Kleon briefly and hear him speak when he came to my school district as the keynote speaker for our in-service day earlier this month. In his talk and in his book, Kleon argues that we tend to misunderstand what creativity is. When we think of creative geniuses throughout history—for example, the Beethovens and DaVincis—we tend to think of them as “lone geniuses.” These individuals were born talented and their work was the product of that individual talent.
But Kleon points out that the idea of the “lone genius” is really a myth, that genius isn’t only a product of great individual talent, but a product of a what Kleon calls a “scenius”—a network of others inspiring artists and thinkers who inspire and push and help those individuals become the geniuses they become. All creative work is the product of a “scenius” or ecosystem (v. egosystem) of collaboration. We all have a family tree of creative influence—so the question is, how can we help create a “scenius” of influence and inspiration for our students.
Of course, readers of this blog and teachers of writing know that one way we create a “scenius” for our students is through our work with mentor texts. After all, when we study the craft of other writers, when we imitate and play and ponder their choices, we are doing creative work. Continue reading