Once upon a time…
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” (Maya Angelou)
I have two antique wooden trunks on the third floor of my home that are filled to the brim with treasures. They contain my daughter’s and my son’s elementary school creative projects —funny paper Thanksgiving decorations made with their tiny hand print cutouts decorated with mangy looking feathers glued to the digits, faded groundhog silhouettes attached to Popsicle sticks poking out of brown construction paper wrapped toilet paper holders, and carefully signed and dated crayon-drawn Mother’s Day cards are all safely packed away. These relics document their initial creativity.
The “fun” times at school, when my young children could freely express themselves and didn’t worry about being right or wrong, are represented by these gems. Fortunately, their teachers encouraged these projects and when my kids proudly brought home their masterpieces, I displayed them on the refrigerator and taped some to the cabinets for everyone to admire. We always had our own family art gallery in the kitchen.
As the years progressed, the artwork supply dwindled and I noticed a shift in focus onto more serious academic topics. Work sheets about math, social studies and science replaced the clay figures and glittery Christmas ornaments in their backpacks. I missed the daily creative personal artifacts.
When we are young we seem to be unencumbered by more mature social inhibitions and we allow ourselves to freely release the unique ideas that are floating around in our heads. We don’t notice that we are not coloring inside the lines. It doesn’t matter. We don’t have to make the sky blue and the grass green. They can be any color that we want them to be. We are not bound by norms and society’s expectations. That comes later as we experience more living and when we try to figure out our place in the complex adult world. During that stage, we jockey for a comfortable position, constantly readjusting as the years go by. We tend to want to “fit in” more with the existing social structure so we often tone down our individuality a bit and perhaps even disguise our creativity. We start to carefully use all of the crayons in the box, not just the bright pink one that previously caught our naïve attention. Fortunately, there are some of us who break away and bravely swim upstream while trying to maintain an individual creative spirit. These courageous souls often become our leaders and entrepreneurs. I always smile whenever I see a high school student proudly walking the hallways with pink hair or a spiked blue Mohawk hairstyle. I want to fast forward into the future to see where that sense of independence will lead.
“Creativity takes courage.” ( Henri Matisse)
Sadly, I remember my 5th grade art class experience when my over-powering teacher took her huge green eraser and removed the majority of my fruit from my still life drawing and replaced it with her own carefully shaded grapes and apples. Mine I guess were not “right”. This was a watershed moment for me. The confidence in my creative ability was stifled. After that experience, I was reluctant to draw any original pieces of art and instead I tried to only copy someone else’s. I was insecure about my own ability to be creative.
Thirty years later, tragedy unlocked my creative writing spirit. What were once secret healing thoughts on the pages of my private diary, were to become published words for an unknown audience’s grief journey. They simply started out as my feelings and they were only intended to assist me in bringing order again to my own life. When I shared the product of this cathartic experience with a few family members and confidants, I was encouraged to continue. Then when I sent off the initial stages of my manuscript to a friend of my sister, the acclaimed bestselling author of “ Case Closed”, Gerald Posner, he told me not to give up on my dream and I was off to the races. That was all it took. I found an encouraging, professional voice that believed in me and I wasn’t going to stop until my book was finished and my message became public.
Perhaps your creativity has been interrupted. Try not to be discouraged, but instead continue onward to find your “voice”, your “gift”. Understand that each one of us has something special to offer. Sometimes we are lucky and the creative epiphany comes early on in our lives. And for others like me, it may take a defining critical moment to get a clearer vision. Don’t give up! Keep your creative spirit alive and share it. We need artists, writers, dancers, musicians, and performers to soften the edges of reality and to make our world a vibrant and fun-filled place.
So, take a moment to find a way to color outside the lines of your life and have a creative moment. Now… share so we can all enjoy it!