Children can teach us a lot about the creative process. I’ve been in a bit of a fiction funk lately; I freeze up even thinking about it, whether it’s coming up with my own idea or responding to a prompt.
So I decided to just step back a bit and relax. My daughter Lilly has been on vacation this past week, and I’ve been trying to keep her busy with all the kits and art projects she got for her birthday a few weeks ago.
Yesterday morning we worked on her Fairy Garden project. Before you spread the special dirt into the bowl and plant the seeds, you can paint the few ceramic toadstools and the fairy house to put inside it. Along with the paint was a small tube of glitter. I set her up at the kitchen table and promised to join her after I did up a few dishes.
When I returned a few minutes later, I saw that she had poured almost all the glitter into some of the paint pots, making a lumpy paste.
I almost said, “That’s not how you do it, Boo (her nickname),” but stopped before the words came out. Why shouldn’t she put the glitter into the paint? Who said you have to paint inside the lines? Why can’t the fairy house be five different colors?
There are no rules when it comes to creativity, and children know this intuitively. I also know this, but I forget now and then when I get too caught up in “making it better.” I forget that “making it better” comes later, after the initial first draft. My perfectionism kicks in before I even get a word down, and it paralyzes me.
I don’t know how many times I’ve encouraged Lilly to just do her best and have fun-her painting or craft doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s peculiar how we try to carefully nurture our children’s creativity, but then completely ignore our own creative inner child. We demand that child to grow up and be perfect, every time. It’s no wonder I’m blocked.
So I grabbed a paintbrush and sat down with Lilly to play, dipping my brush into the glitter goop. Our fairy garden won’t look like the perfect one on the box, but it will still be beautiful. It will be ours.
(Whether or not the seeds sprout and grow is another matter-plants die under my care. Another skill to nurture!)