the creativity gene

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She comes to me with a handful of supplies: paper, scissors, tape, ribbon, glitter, glue.

"Let's build a castle," she says, "and mermaids to live in that castle."

She learned at school you can make people out of clothespins. So why not mermaids?

"For Christmas, we should have cake. Carrot cake so it's healthy. And I want to make a castle to go on top of the cake and we'll sing about how thankful we are for our family...Also, I want to write a book about sea animals."

She brings me a stack of drawings on construction paper. Carefully, she sifts through each one and places them in order. Her hair is wild, uncombed, that of a writer on deadline. She thumbs through, considering each crayon image, rearranging a few papers. Editing. Finally she is done and we staple them together and then she dictates the story.

"On this page, there's a manatee and I want you to write how we saved the manatee from being hit by a boat and we rescued it and we named her Sparkle."

Sparkle The Manatee? Got it. I'm writing as fast as I can, trying to keep up with her imagination. I'm writing as fast as I can and it's not fast enough.

I've learned I can't stop the creative process. Not hers. Not mine. When you have it, the creativity gene, it's a force you can't control. You just have to write or manifest whatever thing is pushing its way out of you -- be it story or drawing or clothespin mermaid.

Otherwise, if you put it off, if you suppress it, if you try to say "later, honey," it will ferment and become a violent, two-headed, snaggletooth beast that will strangle your heart. Not pretty.

People envy the creative, but really we suffer a lifelong battle, an internal tug-of-war between what we have to do (eat, brush our teeth, pay bills) and what our body wants to be doing (creating, thinking about creating, reading other creative works, sleeping and dreaming about creating). I don't tell Bronwynn this. Somehow I think she already knows. 

When it comes time to talk to her about being a Creative Person, I will warn her of the pitfalls. The tortured artist is not a stereotype for nothing. But I'll also show her how to share her gift with others, bask in the support and love of people who value her creative mind. I'll teach her how to remain present, how to dip her toes in the past and future without being fully consumed. I'll help her learn to shut her brain off in healthy ways (exercise, laughter, prayer, maybe a little wine).

"Mommy, if I build a house on the bottom of the ocean, would you come visit me?" she asks. "I need to be closer to the sea animals. I want to know how they feel."

Of course, I tell her. I close my eyes and we're already there, together.


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