Free your inner child

New ImageThinking how to tackle this article about creativity has momentarily overwhelmed me. It has led me to thinking about the Big Bang creation-wise then through various creative arts (still no inspiration), to the freshly baked chocolate birthday cake on my kitchen table. It (the cake) has slumped in the middle and I have a trowelful of butter icing poised to effect a repair while I muse our subject. At least I am being creative, sort of.

Unsurprisingly a lot has been written about creativity, and many famous people have been quoted expressing personal wisdom on the subject from Voltaire to Gwen Stefani, but it seems clear that almost everyone, at some stage in their life, can demonstrate a creative side, even if it only ever revealed itself in childhood.

I can’t imagine a time when we were more creative than when we were children, for the simple reason that life’s experiences haven’t really happened at that point. The definitive parameters within which we contain our daily grind don’t always allow us to be creative. Demanding clients, boss, family and the pressure we place on ourselves make impulsiveness seem a luxury. Wouldn’t it be great to have time to change the order of the day or to follow our curiosity just to see where it takes us? Sadly there are too many people willing to fill our head with self doubt or say “that will never work” or worse still “we’ve already tried that and it failed”.

When I was a young(er) mum with pre-school children we spent hours painting (on paper, stones, and with potatoes), making playdough, and creating castles out of twigs in the garden bound together with grass. Up to that point I had a demanding job in marketing, so just to have time out and be a child again with my own children was liberating. We made assault courses in the garden with ELC plastic tunnels, cushions for islands and planks of wood for bridges so that we could avoid the shark infested grass. Neighbourhood children would join us and the resulting cacophony was of shrieks of laughter, an assortment of character voices, and the occasional intervention to prevent WW3! It was great fun, even the resulting mess didn’t spoil the memory of the joy it took to achieve it.

I never thought until now, writing this, that there is a connection between the creative freedom of their early years and the young adults my children are now: my eldest spent last summer as an au pair in Italy where she painted faces on stones, played pirates in the garden and made fairy castles with twigs with her young charges; my son, the photographer and artist, is studying fine art at university; my youngest is nurturing an ambition to be an architect. When I cast my mind back I can recall thinking at their ages that I can be anything I want to be, even though my parents kept drumming on about exam grades.

Last year I worked with a class of thirty 12 year olds on a project to set up a profit making, Olympics-themed, stall for their school’s May Fayre. Their first job was to decide what their stall should be. Many ideas were offered and discussed, and any comments of “that will never work” had to be proven before the idea was allowed to be rejected. Having finally agreed on a “Beat the Bolt” theme they were divided into business departments (accounts, sales, marketing, production) and each department was given a clear brief for its role. Irrespective of this every child, with only one exception, abandoned their department’s brief preferring to design the concept and marketing material. They all wanted to work at the creative end of the task, except one fellow whose future success in sales was assured when he approached the local leisure centre and negotiated use of two of their static bikes and trainers in return for advertising the gym. For the rest, it was hard to keep the salesmen and accountants focussed on their roles as they simply wanted to get involved in what seemed more fun to them. Business folk working with the other classes charged with the project had the same experiences. It seemed that the natural desire to be creative was being suppressed by structure and order imposed by us adults.

So as I put the finishing touches to my son’s cake I wonder at what point in our life do we lose the impulse to be creative, or do we lose it at all? Shouldn’t we be allowed to daydream at work or be given time to investigate ideas? Without curiosity we wouldn’t have invention so it would seem that it is within our nature to develop ideas. This so obviously happens with children when they play and learn so I feel it should be on-going in adulthood.

There is definitely a child in all of us just waiting for moments of stillness when he or she can come bursting forth with some incredible inventive idea. It’s up to us to act on it.

Margot Grantham is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

1 Comment on Free your inner child

  1. karen birch // March 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm // Reply

    I think that your point about children wanting to be creative instinctively is well made Margot. When we were children we laughed so much, something else which seems to get lost in the process of growing up.

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