The Beginning of Creativity

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   Do you remember when you were in elementary school, and when holidays came around there was always some major art project to be done? At Christmas it was an ornament or a gingerbread house. Thanksgiving was tracing your hand and pasting on feathers to make a turkey. For Halloween, the teacher brought in a pumpkin that was carved, the seeds baked and eaten. And for Mother’s Day, there were cards to be made with pink and red flowers and hearts and colorful rainbows, with the words, “I love you, Mom” written inside. It didn’t matter that some kids couldn’t get the gumdrops to stick to the frosting on the gingerbread houses or that they colored the petals of the flowers green and the stems yellow. It was all about free expression, which was guided by loving (hopefully) teachers, and playing with various mediums with which to create. And it didn’t matter how lopsided the house was or which letters were written backwards, the artwork was hung on the refrigerator until the corners curled and the colors faded.

   As we got older, those that found a certain comfort or talent in the arts flourished. Teaching at a high school for the past nineteen years, I have witnessed some talented young people. The art shows that display drawings, paintings, ceramics, even projects made in woods class or ‘scrap metal’ welding still bring me a sense of awe. Seeing a performance offered by the Drama Club, I have to remind myself that these Thespians are between the ages of 14 and 18. I can visualize many of them with careers on Broadway or in Hollywood. From set designs to singing, dancing, and memorizing lines, it warms my heart to see kids in such joy. Whether on the football field during half-time or in the auditorium for a concert, the music abilities of this generation are just outstanding. Talk of a ‘full scholarship for the performing arts’ because a student is particularly talented (part of which comes from time spent honing their craft) in piano or violin causes excitement in me to know that they have such opportunities in their future.

   But the talent that draws on creativity doesn’t stop there. Computer Aided Drafting classes are full. Interest lies in everything from interior design to construction to game design. The Graphic Art classes get to create logos and advertising and web sites for real companies. Culinary Arts provides lunches for teachers as well as beautiful displays for special evenings at the school. There is also a literary magazine that holds a poetry contest once a year. It seems that, currently, my particular high school doesn’t lack in offering students a variety of opportunities to expand and develop their creative talents. However, if we were to follow students from first grade gingerbread houses to successful game designers or professional musicians, I wonder what the percentage would be? How many children experience the joy of creativity when they are young enough to not care if they get it right, but then somewhere along the way, lose their enthusiasm for the play and abandonment that is needed and created when they did an art project? Too many, I imagine.

   We all know how cruel children can be. Was it a comment that made Mary decide not to pick up a colored pencil again? Was it laughter from a group of boys when Joe hit the wrong note on his saxophone that told him he wasn’t good enough? Was it lack of support at home that told the budding artist that their work was not important? In order to be successful, whether in art or life, one must develop a thick skin. Difficult for those who revel in creating since their hearts float so close to the surface and can be wounded easily.

   I remember spending hours outside playing in the street and making up games. We played post office and school and veterinarian. We dug ditches and built bridges in the dirt of the tree wells so we could drive our matchbox cars. There was ample opportunity, in fact necessity, to be imaginative, creative. We were never ‘bored’. Rarely spent hours indoors in front of the TV, and of course we didn’t have home computers. Portable radios were saved for days at the beach or picnics. We had face-to-face conversations with our peers and with adults. And look how much my generation (and the ones before) created. Not only in the form of art, but in medicine, technology, and engineering. The world children are growing up in today is vastly different. Everything is available almost immediately. Conversations are held via texting, where sentences aren’t even formed, even if the two people are sitting across the table from each other. Boredom is rampant. If it doesn’t flash or make noise or entertain, their brains ‘check out’. And with all that has been invented, created by someone’s imagination, I wonder what there is left to create.

   So, my questions, and hence title, of ‘the beginning of creativity’ is really more a continuation of imaginative ideas. With arts programs being reduced or eliminated in all levels of schools, where will students get the encouragement, the materials, and space to initiate an idea or play with different mediums? And if their minds are already constantly entertained, where is the ‘need’ to create? I’m curious as to the number of creative students I see now, compared to the creative adults they will become. How many will set aside the enjoyment and free-spirited feeling that comes from dancing, painting, drawing, singing, playing the guitar, or writing, for careers where there is no need, no time, no desire to waltz with their muse?

   I suppose I have been writing this blog for adults who harbored some trepidation for writing a poem or their memoir, or thought that they were void of any form of creativity. Were you one of the kids who loved art class but for some reason lost interest? What was the reason? A particular incident? Lack of praise? A crumpled painting? Or did your interests take a different turn? Have you thought about dipping in again to that which made you smile as a child, the action that gobbled up hours of your time but you didn’t care because you were in the moment, joyfully creating? As an adult, perhaps your skin is a little thicker and you might know what medium you’d choose to once again dance with your muse. Does the prospect scare you? I’m sure the local art store or community theater would have just the light to turn on, sending insecurities scrambling for the corner behind the door to the room where your creativity lives.

   Perhaps you have a child at home. What have they created based on their uninhibited imagination? What can you do to encourage them to listen to their inner voice and paint, draw, build what they ‘see’ or ‘feel’? I don’t believe that it is ever too late to crack open the door, to call softly to the muse, to pick up the pen or brush or instrument and allow the flow to direct the beauty that only you can create. I was eighteen when put down my musical instrument. It wasn’t until twenty years later that I picked up a pen and scribbled the prologue and first three chapters of my first novel. Now that I have once again a beginning of my creativity, I’m unwilling to allow the joy, the abandonment, the sense of purpose to leave by putting down my pen. If you’re curious as to where my imagination has taken me, there are  numerous pieces to read on my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com Where will your imagination take you?

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