Last Saturday, we had friends and family over for a post-holiday brunch. My two nieces came with their kids, a boy around six and a girl, eight. They had some food and juice, and then boredom set in....so many grownups!
So I took them to my bedroom and gave them a little tour of the objects there, among which were some pieces of exercise equipment, a foam roller and a Lacrosse ball, both of which I use for rolling out sore muscles.
The next ten minutes were a master's thesis on how to use those objects. I could see the children's brains working: what if I did this? Or put it on its side? Or hid it? Or balanced on it? Or......?
Nothing they came up with suggested the objects' actual use. It was astonishing.
I was a parent of young children many years ago. At that point in my life, I was just trying to get through each day and keep my children healthy and safe. I was working full time as a musician, as was my husband, and like many parents we were shepherding our kids through their early years, giving them the tools we thought they needed to succeed in life. So, I'm not sure how much I noticed their creativity. Of course, I knew they were creative, and still are.
But seeing this creativity from a different perspective of now having grown children and appreciating the wonderfulness of little ones, it was breathtaking to see the creativity unfolding before me in my bedroom. I was so used to dealing with adults and their mostly uncreative behavior, that this experience stood out as special.
Why do children eventually give this part of themselves up? We know the answers: fear of being judged, self-criticism, wanting perfection, wanting to fit in, to belong. Everyone wants a tribe, no one wants to go it alone.
When I was growing up, my Dad loved watching comedy on TV, and no other comedian tickled him more than Jonathan Winters. When I look at those old YouTube videos now, I marvel at how Jonathan kept his sense of childlike play. He never used the ubiquitous f-bombs we hear from comedians today, yet he also never ceased to be hilarious, gently reminding us all of our failings as humans, but always forgiving us.
He and comedian Robin Williams became close friends, and I think it was because they shared that sense of childlike, yet razor sharp and lightening fast, creativity. They played and had fun, and it was mostly in the spirit of wonder at humanity's head scratching behavior. As comedians, they were encouraged to keep going with showing us how they saw the world.
What does all this have to do with writing, which is the career I'm nudging over to from music? Well, for one thing, I've had my moments of terror, when I asked myself, "What are you doing? You don't know how to be writer! You're a musician, it's too late, you're not good enough," etc., etc., with the self-styled putdowns.
But seeing those children the other day reminded me that we're here to play and explore, and in doing so, hopefully leave things a little better than we found them. I wrote my children's book on creativity, "Giselle and the Little Idea", to encourage children to do just that. Hopefully, it will help to stave off some of the many roadblocks children encounter on their quest to stay inquisitive.