I come from a family whose creative muse is frequently expressed in music or in art. Musicians and artists dot the landscape of the old family tree. So far as I know, other than my daughter Leah, I am the only one who writes novels, but it may be that I am the only one who ever had the time to spend on such an endeavor.
When I watch children at play, I see the creativity that all musicians and artists know, that wonderful sense of “Ah ha! This is fun!” that comes with making something that exists only to bring pleasure to those who hear or see it. I see this sense of “I can do it!” in all the children, but by the time they are teenagers, much of that joy in creativity has been trained out of them. I wonder why and how it happens.
When I was young and working at dead-end jobs, I would come home and while my children did their homework or played, I would write, draw, or play the guitar. It was selfish, yes–in that it gave me pleasure. But it was not selfish, as it didn’t take me out of their world, and was something we could share. It taught them that they could take the time to be creative.
If there is any advice I would give young parents, it is to be creative in the presence of your children. You go to work every day, and by that you are teaching them that one must earn a living, yes, but the reward of earning that living is a life of love and creativity.
Some people will say bitterly that their job has burned all their energy and creativity from them. I say this is not necessarily so–you must take the time and energy you expend on hating your circumstances, and convert it into something creative. It’s amazing how many people I know who tell me they aren’t creative, but they doodle the most amazing little pictures on the handouts during those requisite boring meetings-to-nowhere that we all endure in Corporate America.
That is creativity trying to get out.
The reason children are so creative is that they don’t do it for other people, they are doing it solely for the fun of it. Get out the crayons and a blank sheet of paper for a child who hasn’t been to school yet, and watch what happens. Add old magazines, round-end scissors, and mix up some flour & water paste, and the possibilities are endless. But once that child gets into a social environment where he begins to feel less talented than the child next to him, he shuts that creativity down.
Inside every adult at the water cooler is kindergartner with a picture to draw, a song to sing, or a story to tell. Somewhere along the line, they began to fear they weren’t good enough and put it aside. Soon they have an “I can’t do it” attitude, because they fear failure and embarrassment. They have forgotten the joy of making a good, creative mess. They don’t remember how they learned as much from the failures as they did from the successes.
Don’t let the fact you have no money stand in your way. It takes very little money to draw a picture, or to write a story. You don’t need an expensive computer program–all you need is a pencil and paper. And music? You don’t need to play an instrument to sing. If you always wanted music lessons but couldn’t afford them, a great way to learn is to join a community choir. It’s free, and takes a little time away from your TV, but it is a way to jumpstart your joy of making music.
Our children are all artistic and creative in the most amazing (to me) ways, and I think that is because I never stopped making art or music. They all sing or play instruments, or create art. Our older son, Billy, and youngest daughter, Meg, are working musicians. Billy is a drummer in a band with my ex-husband and my brother. Meg is a young mother and a working musician with several mp3s to her credit. If you are curious, here is her Facebook page where you can hear her work: Meg is Singing.
Meg and Billy are both incredible musicians, playing the drums, the guitar, keyboards, and in Meg’s case, the flute. Music is their passion. Son Dan is a guitar virtuoso, but he plays for his own pleasure. He is an incredible sports photographer, and his work can be seen here: SpotKazu
Christy and Leah express their art in other ways. Christy is an engineer who deeply loves her craft, and brings her sense of beauty into her home, designing an environment that is both serene and filled with color. Leah is an artist, one of her pictures can be seen at the top of this page, and a hair-dresser. She loves her craft as much as Christy does hers. They go to work, and art is expressed in their daily lives, enriching the lives of their children.
This is why I am and have always been a happy person despite the bumps and hardships of life–I did what I had to do to put food on the table, but I played and sang and wrote poems and goofy stories in my free time. My children were my audience and my co-creators. My husband’s children were raised in the same sort of environment (he is a trumpet player and she is an actress) and all 5 of our kids are sheer genius to me. They far outstrip me with their talents and abilities, and with their drive and ambition.