Inspiration and Combinatorial Creativity

Sienna (age 5) was reading You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You. I noticed her jump up to grab a clipboard and piece of paper. She moved quickly, on a mission.

A bit later, she came to me with a drawing, and we had a version of the following conversation:

Sienna: “Can you write the story?”

Me: “How about you tell it and I write it?”

Sienna: “No, I want you to do the story.”

Me: “Okay.” (I agreed easily knowing that once I got started, she would jump in. Recently, we’ve been reading manga and graphic novels together, so rather than writing out a conversation in a paragraph, I just added a comic word bubble saying, “Eeek!” As expected, this was enough for her to jump back in.)

Sienna: “I wanna say the words, and you write!” (For each mouse that she drew in the picture, she gave a line, which I put in a word bubble. Excited now, she added another mouse at the bottom and a title for the piece.)


This is where it ended. The drawing of the book and the mice on the book seemed to have perspective elements in it that I was not used to seeing in her drawings. And, just as interestingly, the mouse on the bottom drawn quickly in front of me looks less sophisticated. Where did she get the idea for the book and the mice? Had she traced something?

Later, after she had gone to bed, I found her book open to this page:


Clearly, her inspiration came from here, but she had not traced. She changed placements of mice on the pages of the book; she took the stripes idea from the clothing of one mouse and put it on another. She engaged in an act of combinatorial creativity based on inspiration taken from an object in her immediate environment.

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