I picked up the book On Writing by horror author Stephen King. There is a great couple of paragraphs, at the beginning of the book, where his mother encourages Stephen to write his own stories versus copying the stories from his comic book Combat Casey. Within these two paragraphs lies a few keys to unlocking teens creativity.
Don’t Copy, Create
Stephen’s mother encouraged him to be original, she said, “You can do better than his”. Whether it’s writing or making Tik Tok videos, parents and youth workers should encourage originality. Your affirmation could awaken their faith and confidence in themselves and encourage them to try. The hurdle of self confidence is much easier to overcome with words from people those teens love and respect.
” I remember an immense feeling of possibility at the idea,”– Stephen King, On Writing
“This is good enough to be in a book” said King’s mother after reading his first story about Mr. Rabbit Trick and his four friends. A type of prophecy? Perhaps. When a teen does something that is good enough for praise, praise it, but also promote it. Mrs. King mailed Stephen’s stories to all her sisters.
With social media it’s easy to highlight when our teens do something good enough, no matter how small, be it in sports, the arts or their favorite hobby. Maybe you could share their talent on line and tag an author or artist to say, “this is good enough” for you to see. Maybe don’t tag your teen because eye rolls and “whyyyyyy?”
Brag about it, put it on the fridge, record it for posterity or sit it on the mantle but find a way to showcase your teens talent no matter what they do well.
Put a value on it
Stephen wrote four stores and his mother paid him 25 cents a story. Compliments are one thing, cash is another. Do you pay your kids for grades? Taking out the trash? Why not pay them, something, for their creativity.
Every song they write that is “good enough” pay them to do more of it. You don’t have to pay cash, but maybe you could pay for a session at a real recoding studio just to acclimate them to professional surroundings. How about paying a writing coach to take their story to the next level? There are plenty of avenues to place value on a teens creativity, choose one and watch their heart grow big.
If you are a youth worker in the local church, these principles apply in spades. If a kid could rap, I let them rap, if they did poetry or spoken word, I found a way to work it in. If they did graphic design I valued their art by using it on logos and t-shirts. If you want more creativity in your youth ministry, become a talent scout and be more like Stephen King’s mother, I heard he turned out ok.