Every morning I sit in the La-Z-Boy in my family room, look out the window and write. I write longhand with pen and paper, and I write freely, without concern for grammar, spelling or misplaced modifiers.
My neighbours across the street have two young children ages five and three. As I sit in my chair every morning, I look across to the picture window of their living room where the art of these two children is proudly displayed. Their crafts change with the seasons over the course of the year: colourful autumn leaves become pumpkins, then sparkling snowflakes, then Valentine hearts, and then tulips. Like the scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant’s character walks through the market and he remains the same but the seasons change behind him, I sit in my chair unchanged while the seasons change in front of me.
Creativity inspires joy
When my children were young I worked for a time as a pre-school playgroup leader. Each week I prepared a craft for the children to create. I always provided a sample of how the finished product could look. No matter how clearly we explained the craft and how often we showed the sample, if there were twelve children in the group, there would be twelve distinctly different results. Each child, without self-consciousness or concern for what anyone else thought, took the basic ingredients and created something unique, exactly what he or she wanted. Each child thought his or her version was perfect and exactly as it should be. Without exception, each one of those children waved the finished product in the air proudly. “I made this!” they exclaimed with great excitement. The creativity and sense of accomplishment inspired uninhibited joy.
At that age, “not good enough” or “you should have done it this way” don’t apply.
Eventually, children get older, and the challenges become greater. In order to help them improve, people around them give them suggestions on how to make their work better. When this happens, the children realize that what they’re doing does not meet the mark somehow, and they become self-conscious. They start to examine what they do to see if it measures up. They start to compare themselves with others and find themselves wanting. The “shoulds” they hear make them feel they are “not good enough.”
Sadly, they often stop creating altogether.
Put blank pieces of paper and paint brushes in a room full of toddlers and smile as you watch them create with joyful abandon.
But hand out blank pieces of paper and paint brushes to a group of adults and count how many freeze with fear. “I can’t draw!” they say, or “I haven’t got an artist’s bone in my body.”
Adults find it difficult to create with abandon. There’s always someone around to judge. When someone points out a grammatical error in our writing, we think, “Who am I kidding? I can’t write.” When someone tells us that a dog we drew looks like a horse, we think, “Who am I kidding? I can’t draw.”
I love that my neighbour children share their art so openly and freely.
How many of us adults would put up our art in the front window for all to see?
I believe that creating is the secret to happiness. Boredom, depression and lack of fulfilment can only find room in us if we’re not taking up that space with creative ideas.
Paint a picture, write a poem, or even just doodle on your napkin. Whatever it is, hold it up and say, “I made this!” and you will rediscover toddler-like joy in life.