In my left-brained writing life as a freelance education writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about lifelong learning. That's a big buzzword for educators these days. We all want students to be critical thinkers, studious researchers, and innovative problem-solvers long after graduation.
But what does lifelong learning really look like? It's been almost nine years since I left graduate school, which means it's been a long time since I had a professor to give me assigned readings or challenge my thinking. I've been self-employed as a freelancer for four years, which means I've been responsible for my own market research and professional development for a while, too. On top of that, my right-brained fiction writing would be impossible if I didn't intentionally seek out creative inspiration and growth. Being a lifelong learner is synonymous with living a creative lifestyle.
One of my favorite resources for lifelong learning is TED. This non-profit has one simple goal: to spread great ideas. TED talks--in which thought leaders deliver short, powerful speeches--are available for free on their website. With over 2,000 talks on a range of topics, it's pretty much impossible to visit their website without learning something new.
Since I'm a writer, I spend a lot of time looking for the talks about imagination and creativity. I love hearing what artists of all kinds have to say: what drives them, what humbles them, what inspires them. Here are four of my favorite TED talks that will spark your creativity, every time.
1. Willard Wigan, Micro-Sculptor
Willard Wigan's sculptures are so small you can only see them under a microscope! In this talk, he shows slides of a house he built on the head of a pin, the Incredible Hulk bursting through the eye of a needle, and a microscopic Statue of Liberty (complete with a flame at the end of the torch). Listen to find out about the inspiration behind his work. I guarantee his speech will make you rethink what it means to pay attention to detail.
2. Isaac Mizrahi, Fashion Designer
One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Project Runway--I've watched all 15 seasons and I can't wait for the next! Since fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi is a judge on the show, I had to see his TED talk on fashion and creativity. Although I think of him as a designer, it surprised me to learn that Mizrahi has many, many interests and draws creative inspiration from just about everything. His speech is a great reminder to try new things in the quest to "not be bored."
3. Ji-Hae Park, Violinist
Ji-Hae Park is an incredible violinist, so listening to her TED talk is worthwhile just for the chance to hear her play. However, as Park says during the talk, music is about so much more than being successful or accomplished. Her speech and performance captures why it matters to be creative just for the sheer joy of it.
4. Elizabeth Gilbert, Author
This speech was recorded after the publication of Eat, Pray, Love, when Elizabeth Gilbert had achieved wild success as an author and was at work on her next book. I love her perspective on the social pressure to "be a genius," and her smart and funny discussion of what it means to "have a genius" instead.
There are thousands more TED talks on the TED.com website--don't be surprised if you want to spend all day listening to them! Do you have a favorite TED talk? Share it in the comments--lifelong learning is all about spreading great ideas!