Set a child at her desk and ask her to “draw something”, and she may struggle to think of what. But ask her to draw a flower, and you may get much more than you bargained for when along with the flower comes trees, rainbows, animals, vases, cactus plants, dinosaurs, race cars, and any number of other unexpected delights.
Give a composer an empty score and the same may happen; but give him a bar of melody to build around and soon you may have a symphony.
Ask your middle school student, “How was school?” and you might not get much of a response. But ask specific questions, “Did anything unusual happen in art class today?” “Did anything make you laugh out loud?” “Whom did you play with at recess?” “What was the weirdest thing a teacher said today?” and you’re more likely to spark a real conversation.
We struggle with the blank canvass. There is nothing to ground us or key us in. Often there is an initial block of energy required to kick-start the creative process. But with a little bit of structure (not too much!), we quickly overcome that barrier and jump right in.