A recent conversation we had in Emily’s first-grade classroom:
Me: Emily I love your art project.
Emily: Me too! Except I needed more glitter.
Emily’s Teacher: Oh Emily, I don’t think there’s enough glitter in the world for you.
Give my daughter a coffee stirrer, tape, and a pinch (or bag) of glitter and in a few minutes she’ll create a masterpiece. A day rarely goes by when she doesn’t gather a completely unlikely collection of supplies to make a garland, a boat, a castle, a game board, an outfit for a doll, etc., etc. She’s a sparkly, rainbowy version of MacGyver. Her only roadblock on the path to uncensored creativity is that I occasionally refuse to supply her with the right tools. For example, when she came out of her room and in her most innocent voice asked for honey I denied her request without finding out why honey was needed (my lips instinctively form the word “no” when honey is mentioned by Emily). But an artist needs a little struggle, right?
I’m envious of my daughter’s ability to create without judging. When I create something I enjoy the process – the shopping for supplies perhaps being my favorite part – but then I’m quick to judge the finished product. It’s rarely what I’d envisioned it to be. Emily loves her final product with the same enthusiasm (read lots and lots of enthusiasm) that she has while knee-deep in glitter during the process of creation.
I’m also envious of her ability to see the world for its potential and not its reality. When I look at a coffee filter and pom-poms I see a tool for brewing coffee and craft supplies. Emily sees a clown hat or a 3-D rainbow or a fluffy boat for a doll.
My creativity is sadly not too original, when I want inspiration I tend to look at the results of a Google search instead of opening my eyes to what’s around me. Emily wakes up with her imagination overflowing to the point she can barely stand a minute without creating.
When I don’t understand how something works I’m okay with that as long as it does work. When I see a lack of beauty in my home I decide it’s a small price to pay for less clutter. When I see Emily gathering her eclectic mix of supplies my first tendency is normally to gather my own supplies – the cleaning supplies I’ll need for the post-creation fallout.
I hope my creative spark is not completely snuffed out but just buried deep beneath words like responsibility, laundry, career, and housework. (If anything can stifle creativity it’s a pile of unmatched socks.) But I know for sure that Emily’s creativity is a roaring fire. I also know that if anyone in this world has the power to either feed her flame or slowly diminish its intensity – it’s me. And I don’t want my focus on the finished product, my tiny bit of Type-A attitude (okay, not so tiny) to insidiously dampen her creative spirit.
This summer I read an article in Newsweek about the decline of American creativity. It really bothered me because advances in science, engineering, medicine (dare I even say foreign policy and health care?) require creative minds. Our world needs people who ask endless questions and think in ways that shut-up-and-color, follow-the-directions minds do not. Our world needs Emily!
So today, on our third consecutive snow day, I’m going to spread supplies out on our kitchen table and stand out of the way. Even better, I may join in the effort! And we will create. Google will have no part of the process. The ideas will be our own. The finished products will be colorful, uncensored, sparkly, messy, possibly sticky, and free from judgment. They’ll be beautiful.