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English Teaching Info


by Richard Bienvenu

I submit this article here for the ESL teacher because I think being a good teacher is part skill and part creativity. It's important to be able to be spontaneous and operate "outside the box". Teaching to me is a creative endeavor and I think the best teachers are true artists.

"What, you ask, is my method in writing and elaborating my large and lumbering things? I can, in fact, say nothing more about it than this: I do not know myself, and can never find out. When I am in a particularly good condition, then the thoughts come to me in a rush, and best of all. Whence and how I do not know and cannot learn."--Mozart

"You will ask me where I get my ideas. I am not able to answer that question positively. The new and original is born of itself without one's thinking of it ... my Ninth Symphony is but an empty echo of the heavenly music I heard in my dreams."--Beethoven



You Create Your World

Exercise 1: The Dreams List

Blocks to Creativity and Spontaneity

Characteristics of a Self Actualized Person

Ignite That Spark of Creativity Within You

Exercise 2: The Three Pages

Exercise 3: Spontaneous Drawing

Suggested Reading


My CD TONE POEMS is a collection of improvised piano pieces. Five of these pieces were created in the studio while recording. In other words, I sat at the piano and without any forethought or idea of what I was going to play I put the hands to the piano and created theme, structure and rhythm spontaneously.

The rest of the pieces on the CD are what I call structured improv in that I had a basic theme and a beginning and end within which I improvised.

This kind of creativity is not without risk. I never know what is going to come out, how it begins or how it will end. Sometimes it works grandly other times not so much so.

It is a fascinating experience in which I sometimes get goose bumps as I silently observe this music coming out of my fingers.

The key to this is the willingness to make mistakes, the willingness to take the risk and fall flat on my face and look like a fool.

This then I believe is the one true key to creativity and spontaneity: the willingness to take risks. Only those who risk are truly free.

Observe the very young. Look how they create spontaneously. Watch how they draw, lines on the paper, multi-colors, non-representational art.

As adults we sometimes react to a smear on a page with a "that's nice honey." “What the heck is this?” we think. We can't wait for the day when they start drawing things we can recognize.

But we miss the chance to really involve ourselves in a creative process of appreciation of that nonrepresentational multicolored smear.

We are given the chance to really encourage this way of expressing for the child and bolster their self-esteem. Who knows what they may become if we constantly encourage them to express in this way?

Since the industrial revolution our school system systematically trains this spontaneity and creativity out of our children.

Now it is time for our outmoded and outdated school systems to begin bringing art and creativity back into the classrooms and encourage free-thinking rather than restrictive learning by rote.

I truly believe that the rebellion and confusion that we see in our classrooms are directly related to the oppression that our teaching system inflicts on our children.

The children are bored and out of balance because most of our learning is geared around left brain thinking.

Spontaneous, creative right brained thinking is ignored and discouraged.

It is almost as if our school officials are afraid of it. It can't be measured, graded or judged. Witness when a school system wants to cut back the first place they go are the arts.

Look into your own life.

Ask yourself:

  • where am I playing it safe,
  • where am I in a comfort zone,
  • where have I foregone my dreams to just get by, have a job, make it in the nine to five world
  • where have I said I can't do that because it isn't practical, or I'm not good enough?

If you are in a job you don't like and you've compromised who you are because of it quit the job and do what you really love. Unless you do this you will never realize your full potential as a human being, and you'll live a life of quiet desperation.

I am talking about doing what you really love, what you have a passion for.

You were put on this earth for one purpose and one purpose only:
to discover who you are.

Sometimes this discovery takes the route of doing what we really don't like so we can know what it is we really do like and what we really want to do with our lives.

Said in another way, sometimes the road to discovering who we are is by learning who we are not.


"I'm a magician through whom the images of our time pass and become paintings. I'm an interpreter of reality into fantasy and back again. I'm a juggler of texture and color. I'm a seer of the past and a prophet of the future. I ride the hurricane, I walk the tightrope of sanity. I live on the edge of the world." Peter Dean--artist

“Save you be as little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
--Jesus of Nazereth

Everyone of us was born creative, we all have that creative spark in us. We create our world moment to moment through our thoughts, emotions and feelings.

Consider this...

The universe rearranges itself to accommodate your picture of reality.

Most of us are taught to think that the world is acting on us, that the world is outside of us and we have no control on how the world is, or how it appears to us.

I assert the world occurs to us in how we FEEL about it. If we feel that the world is a messed up place that it is dangerous, then we have to always be looking behind us, afraid at every thing the world brings our way.

"Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change."
--Dr. Wayne Dyer

If you have the world-view that the world is beautiful, magnificent, marvelous, all is working in perfection in its own way then that will be how the world occurs to you.

We can change the way the world occurs to us simply by choosing to view it differently.

The great holy men, seers and sages throughout history saw the world differently, which is why they could have compassion for all things, all people, all experiences. Each and every one of us has the capacity to see the world in this way. We just make the choice to do so and practice it like a skill.

Exercise 1: The Dreams List

Now that we've acknowledged that we are all creative beings the next task is to consciously create what are lives will be, how we view ourselves in the world and in relationship to others.

Now comes an exercise.

The dreams list.

If you've already done this one do it again. You can never do this one too often. Unless you know where you want to go with your life, life will take you where it wants you to go.

Some people think it's better to go with the flow. I say that's great. Go with the flow, just know what flow you want to go with.

Step 1:

Take a piece of paper.

At the top write "If I had all the money, resources and time in the world here is what I would do, be, have."

Now this is an exercise in being spontaneous.

You are brainstorming. And the trick to brainstorming is to let it flow without judging, without stopping to think about it.

If you have the thought "swim in a vat of chocolate" write it down. Or "to be a world renowned public speaker" put it down.

Or "to be captain of a spaceship to the moon" include that.

Putting down what seem to be unattainable goals, even silly goals is allowing your inner spontaneous being, that which you had ready access to when you were a child, a chance to express itself.

Time yourself and give yourself no more than 10 minutes. Now begin and don't stop writing until ten minutes are up.

Step 2:

Now look at your list. Pick your top favorite three.

Now ask yourself, "what would it take for me to have that, be that, do that?”

Who would I have to be for this goal to be achieved?"

Now the trick to this is coming up with more than one answer. There are an infinite number of ways for you to have what you want.

If you say "well, I could never have that because" or "I would need a million dollars to have that" and that's as far as you go, you're putting up a roadblock to your creativity.

I invite you to go deeply into your own creative being to come up with a variety of ways to achieve what you want. You can do this with all of the goals you wrote down, even the seemingly ridiculous "vat of chocolate" kind.

This is your opportunity to have a really rich life, to begin thinking spontaneously and creatively.

When I decided I wanted to produce my own CD I needed to raise money. Brainstorming I came up with the idea of sending a letter to friends and family and just asking for donations.

I sat at my computer and brainstormed ideas of what I wanted to say in the letter, wrote more than I actually needed and then with three weeks work honed it down to its bare essentials.

I also allowed the input of a few trusted friends to help me edit the letter.

The result...

I raised more than enough for what I needed to produce the album. I offered people the opportunity to be involved in a creative endeavor and a enough willingly participated.

When you truly do what you love the universe begins to open its secrets to you and paths that one time seemed dark and inaccessible open up into a bright clear colorful valley of opportunity. and possibility.


Creative people are

  • courageous,
  • self-expressed,
  • humorous,
  • intuitive.

All of these traits can be developed. We just have to have the conscious desire to expand ourselves and a willingness to explore.

Here's an expanded view of these traits:

1. Courageous:

Creative people aren't afraid to try or to think something new, they are willing to risk, and they are willing to fail. The only way you can really know that you are up to something in your life is by massively failing.

Only those who are willing to fail are willing to truly succeed. Some of the wealthiest people in the world have gone bankrupt. Walt Disney went bankrupt several times before he eventually succeeded.

So don't be afraid to fail. It is what riches are built on. It is what success is built on. In fact much of the foundation for success is failure.

2. Self-expressed:

Creative people aren't afraid to let people know how they think and feel. They are willing to let the world see who they are. A truly successful artist can never be timid in their art, they have to be willing to break free of conventions and express their own unique style.

Just look at who are considered to be some of our greatest artists. Picasso, Van Gogh, DaVinci and Beethoven all broke the mold on what was considered in their time to be great art.

The greatest advances in mankind are made by those who are unconventional, who refuse to adhere to the status quo. Many are snubbed and ridiculed, some die penniles. But history invariably vindicates our greatest thinkers, inventors and artists.

3. Humorous:

Creative people are able to take elements that appear to be incongruous or different and put them together in a completely unexpected way.

New products are developed in this way as well as unique and controversial works of art.

It's also important to have a really great sense of humor. Sometimes people aren't going to like what you do. Or they might even misunderstand your artistic intent.

Some people let the judgments of others bury them…

John Kennedy Toole who wrote Confederacy of Dunces took his own life after getting numerous rejection letters. His mother took the book around after his death and got it into the hands of the novelist Walker Percy who recognized the novel's brilliance.

It eventually won the Pulitzer Prize.

Although Toole was a brilliant and creative writer, he lacked the ability to handle rejection to finally get what would eventually be a prize winning novel published. He took himself too seriously and although wrote a masterpiece of comedy was unable to see the humor in his own life. (Toole’s house by the way is only tree blocks from where I live.)

Successful people keep plugging away, committed to their lives and their dreams. They listen to criticism with an open heart, take what they can use, throw the rest away and move on.

4. Intuitive:

Creative people cherish and consciously work on developing their own intuitive abilities. Intuition is that spontaneous spark of knowing that's instantaneous and unexpected.

Like turning down a street because it feels right and seems illogical that leads you to that garage sale that has that book or piece of furniture that's exactly what you've been looking for.

It's the feeling of "click" when something fits and you don't know why. Or that urge to call someone right then and there. We've all experienced it.

Sometimes we listen, sometimes we don't.

The more we listen the more we get in tune with that inner knowing that sometimes speaks to us through our gut.


we learn to follow our spirit without hesitation. In fact this becomes the prime directive.


Now let's look into the stumbling blocks to the creative process.

The Editor

The first and foremost stop to being creative is listening to "the editor."

The editor is that logical, rational part of your mind that is constantly criticizing what you do, that constantly says you can't do that, you're not good enough, you're not smart enough.

Allowing the editor have its say is death to the first part of the creative process but useful later on. When creating spontaneously one has to let it flow freely with no regard for what it might look like or sound like to you or to anyone else.

One has to let go of this rational, logical mind. It's not as difficult as it seems. As with anything worthwhile it takes practice.

I'll give you some exercises to get the ball rolling but first let's look at little closer at the blocks to creativity. See if you fall somewhere in here, see what your blocks are.

Afraid to Make Mistakes--

All creativity takes a certain amount of risk. You have to be willing to make mistakes, to take chances. It is amazing some of the musical ideas I've come up with by making mistakes.

I use the mistakes to propel me into areas I would otherwise have not discovered. What happens are that they are not mistakes at all, but opportunities.

Thinking You Need to Have the Right Answer, to Do it Right--

Most of us are always looking for the right thing to do. Maybe there is no right thing, maybe it's really only the next thing. And there is no one right answer.

Thinking in this way limits you. There are a multitude of ways of getting results. Try as many as possible.

Following the Rules--

Rules are handy sometimes, but they can limit you, especially if you know what the rules are. I really don't know much of the rules about music theory, but I innately know what works and what doesn't.

You need to give yourself freedom to play around, to make a mess, to be foolish, to be ridiculous. You need to get beyond conventional thinking in order to be spontaneous, this allows for the creation of new worlds and new possibilities.

Beethoven was constantly pushing the envelope breaking down the barriers of conventional musical thought. He was even booed at concerts of his most important works, riots would ensue. He was pushing people to hear in a different way.


A self-actualized person as one who strives to fulfill his human potential, to put to use all of his capabilities. Abraham Maslow said that we all desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

He details 15 traits of a self actualized person, traits we can use as a blueprint for our own personal development.

A self actualized person:

  1. perceives reality accurately and objectively; tolerates and even likes ambiguity; and is not threatened by the unknown.

  2. accepts himself, others and human nature.

  3. is spontaneous, natural, genuine.

  4. is problem centered (not self-centered), non-egotistical; has a philosophy of life and probably a mission in life.

  5. needs more privacy and solitude than others; is able to concentrate intensely.

  6. is independent, self-sufficient and autonomous; has less need for praise or popularity.

  7. has the capacity to appreciate simple and commonplace experiences; has zest in living, high humor, and the ability to handle stress.

  8. has (and is aware of) rich, alive, fulfilling "peak experiences"—moments of intense enjoyment.

  9. has deep feelings of brotherhood with all mankind; is benevolent, altruistic, has strong friendship ties with relatively few people; and is capable of greater love.

  10. is democratic and unprejudiced in the deepest possible sense.

  11. is strongly ethical and moral in individual (not necessarily conventional) ways; enjoys work in achieving a goal as much as the goal itself; is patient, for the most part.

  12. has a thoughtful, philosophical sense of humor that is constructive not destructive.

  13. is creative, original, inventive with a fresh, naive, simple and direct way of looking at life; tends to do most things creatively-but does not necessarily possess great talent.

  14. is capable of detachment from culture; can objectively compare cultures and can take or leave conventions.

  15. is unstoppable, he has an all-consuming drive to push the envelope, to go way past his perceived boundaries.

Many times when we push past our boundaries we realize they were made up of air, of nothing but fear itself.

This brings us back to what really keeps us from being spontaneous--fear.

  • Fear of making mistakes,
  • fear of what people will think,
  • fear of change,
  • fear of trying something new, for in that discovering something new about ourselves maybe we'll have to let go of the habitual limited yet comfortable way we think about ourselves and realize that we really do have the power to achieve anything we want in our lives.

We can no longer think small, we can no longer make up excuses for why life isn't going the way we want it to go. We realize that our destiny is in our hands, all in the choices we make and in the things we wish to believe about ourselves.

Now let's try some exercises in being spontaneous and pushing the envelope that will really get your creative juices flowing.


Exercise 2: The Three Pages Exercise

This is a great exercise to do often. I did this once a day for a year in the early morning and improved my ability to write and create tremendously. This is about letting go and letting it flow. I still do this exercise several times a week.

Take out a notebook or two sheets of loose leaf paper.

At the top write…

"I am allowed to write the worst trash in the world."

Now put your pen to paper and begin. Now this is the important part: Write whatever comes to mind without stopping to think, without stopping until you have written 3 pages. No one is going to see this, this is all for you.

Just write whatever is on your mind, let go of having to write about anything, about it being grammatically correct or that it has to make sense. Let the thoughts flow freely.

If your mind goes blank just write "my mind is blank right now and I don't know what else to say, maybe I'll say nothing, maybe I'll keep writing till my hand falls off or until the world explodes or until the bluebird sings..."

Get the idea?

Even if your mind says, "this is stupid, this is dumb, I don't know how to write," write that. Just keep writing. When you've done three pages, put your pen down.

Congratulations !!

I recommend not reading the pages until later.

Now go on to the next exercise.

Exercise 3: Spontaneous Drawing

Get a piece of blank paper, with no lines preferably. Get different colored pens, pencils, markers, crayons, whatever you have available. If you have only a pen or pencil that's OK.

Now get a clock or watch.

You are going to give yourself one minute to draw.

Now the trick to this is not to draw anything representational, in other words no familiar objects.

Say to yourself: "I am allowed to draw the worst trash in the world." And begin. Just scribble, doodle, make broad sweeps, small sweeps, imagine that your hand is dancing across the page.

Allow your hand to draw, not your mind. Just move move move, with no stopping.

Circles, curves, lines, dots. After one minute stop. Put your pen down.


Now get up walk around, get a drink of water, stretch. Become aware of how you feel. Do you feel freer, silent, irritated, angry, frustrated, joyful? Just notice your feelings. That's all.

Now go back and read your 3 pages. What did you find?

Anything unexpected, poetic, nonsensical? I have created a lot of poetry out of just this exercise, poems that seemed nonsense at the time of writing, but deeply rich and textured upon later reading.

It took a commitment of just doing three pages daily, expecting nothing, until finally a spring of poetic imagery burst forth from the page.

Now look at your drawing, what do you see? Sometimes if you look close enough you may see a face, or maybe a horse or an infinite number of shapes emerge from the page. Maybe you see nothing there.

That's OK. You don't need to. You may never need to. It's going through the process expecting nothing but just a free feeling in spontaneously creating.

(This is a GREAT exercise to do with a child.)

Only the Beginning

There. I've led you through the basics of how to tap your own creative spontaneity. Although these exercises seem simple, they are very powerful.

Above all keep learning, keep trying new things, make new connections, read books, take classes. Continually expand your mind, and loosen the grips on habitual ways of thinking.

There are many untapped dimensions within you that are waiting to be discovered.

These discoveries can be exciting, exhilarating, even scary sometimes. "Ride the wild hurricane, live at the edge of the world."

It is in this realm of possibility, spontaneity and creativity that the extraordinary richness of the world resides.


To laugh is to risk appearing foolish.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out for another is to risk involvement.

To express feelings it to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing has nothing, is nothing, does nothing. They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love or live.

Chained by attitudes we become slaves, forfeit freedom.

Only the person who risks is free.

Suggested Readings:

THE ARTIST'S WAY by Joyce Cameron

MINDMAPPING by Joyce Wycoff


WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldberg


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