As some of you may know, I’m in the middle of writing a book. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. There have been multiple times during this process when I’ve wondered how books even get written. It’s a time-consuming process, filled with self-doubt, second guessing and lots of editing. What keeps me going is the invigorating feeling I get when I’m in the zone and the words are flying out of my fingertips faster than I can type. That energy convinces me to keep writing. It would be easy to stop and instead spend all time with my family, but I feel like this is something I have to do. And if I quit now, I will always wonder “what if”.
Creating something is important, it’s life-giving. I was reminded of this truth earlier this week. School’s out for summer which means I have two kids at home. They are enjoying their down time but the “I’m bored” chorus is also ringing in my ears. The other day, my 11-year-old son unexpectedly sent me a text with a picture of a mosaic-style drawing (imagine lots of lines splitting the page into all shapes and sizes). In hopes of filling time, I replied and suggested he color the design. About twenty minutes later, I received another text with the finished product. I never could have predicted the surge of creativity this has ignited in him. Since then he’s filled his notebook with doodles. He’s created characters and asked the family to help him think of names. He’s eager to finish his chores to get back to his drawings. The details really don’t matter, what matters is the feeling of confidence, excitement and joy these creations ignite in him is wonderful to witness.
Brene’ Brown has a great chapter about creativity in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. Her history with creativity is one many of us can relate to. She remembers being a very creative child until fifth grade when she moved to a different town. All of sudden what she wore and the way the furnishings looked in her house were more important than the joy of making something you loved. She writes “As far as my own story, the older I got, the less value I put on creativity and the less time I spent creating…..I relied on the statement, “I’m not the creative type.” On the inside I was really thinking, Who has time for painting and scrapbooking and photography, when the real work of achieving and accomplishing needs to be done?”
How many of us have said “I’m not the creative type”? Or maybe you have resisted trying something new because you were worried about how it would look when it was done.
Brene’s research finally made her realize three truths when it came to creativity:
Often what holds us back is the fear of comparison. Brene’ writes “Letting go of comparison is not a to-do list item. For most of us, it’s something that requires constant awareness. It’s so easy to take our eyes off our path to check out what others are doing and if they’re ahead or behind us. Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared.”
There are so many nuggets of wisdom in these words, but one of the stand outs for me, is the idea of comparison. When I’m sitting down to write my book, I can’t help but think, someone else has already written about this topic and who am I to think my words will be different? Let me tell you, this is a hard argument to win inside my brain, but there is also a spark within me that says I must. Similarly, my son is not thinking about comparison when he shows me his latest masterpiece and I’m not going to be the one to point it out. He is so animated, so joyful and is stretching beyond his comfort zone – who am I to squash that? As parents we must remind ourselves not to judge the output, but to encourage the process – it really doesn’t matter what the end result is.
In Brene’s later books she relays how her research uncovered stories of stifled creativity where adults recall a specific moment where a family member or teacher gave them a negative reaction and they vowed to never create again. As Brene’ states above “Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed.” We must cultivate that not only for our kids but for ourselves. There is an energy and a joy that can only be felt when you are creating. It puts into motion a momentum, that courses through your veins and invigorates you.
What can you do to stretch your creative muscles today? Make the time today, set all judgement aside and allow yourself the freedom to express what is uniquely yours. You might just surprise yourself, maybe not with your talent, but with the fun you have doing it.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.