I remember reading that Eric Clapton has to schedule time at his music studio to be creative, or else it just doesn’t happen for him. I thought that when you are a creative genius, creativity just uncontrollably oozes out of you at all times. But it isn’t so: you have to make time for yourself to be creative.
We are all creative. Every last one of us. And we need to be creative. We deserve to be creative. Some of us listen to that need more than others. Why? What is so important about creativity? Well, for one, it makes us engage in divergent thinking instead of convergent thinking.
Most of the time, we are engaged in convergent thinking: we start with several ideas and whittle them down into one idea. With divergent thinking, we are doing the opposite. We are starting with one idea and expanding that one into as many ideas that we can. This shift in thinking helps us to be flexible, original, innovative, and offers us a new perspective. It also forces us to use our imagination.
A friend recently heard someone say, “You can live a life without creativity; it is possible.” That thought made my friend cry. I would argue that you can not; you should not. But that is where a lot of us are headed leading such busy, over-scheduled lives.
The magazine Psychology Today researched “Everyday Creativity,” and found outstanding benefits. Did you know that…
It helps people to adapt and thrive,
It improves their immune functioning (it’s flu season people!),
It helps them cope with aging,
It teaches resilience,
It improves relationships,
It gives people a greater sense of well-being and personal growth.
WE NEED CREATIVITY TO LIVE FULLY.
But, where is the time and the space to make that happen? At Wonder Studio, of course! But I am always looking to expand that one hour of open-ended, uninterrupted, no-expectation creative time to our lives at home. It is so important to mental health, but we have to make it easy and realistic, or it won’t happen.
So, how do we do it? Here is an easy idea. Every year, at the beginning of February, I get a fold out table out of our garage and put it smack dab into our office/music room. It doesn’t fit very well, and it’s an eye sore, but it stays up for at least two weeks (gasp!). I fill it with art materials: fabric, yarn needles, stickers, papers, old magazines, scissors, glue, cold glue guns, old red tissue paper from the holidays, recyclables – you name it, it’s on the table.
My family comes and goes as we are inspired to create or as we are thinking about someone, and we use the table to create class, family, and friend valentines. As we move through the table we think:
What do I find interesting…
How does this work together…
Who does this remind me of…
I know that it is super easy to grab that pre-made, commercial Valentine that all the classmates have heard about, and I do love the store-bought variety. My son and I found army guys that said, “Love is a Battlefield,” which spawned a great conversation about Pat Benatar and 80’s music and ended at “Greased Lightning” (don’t ask). But I dare say, that is not the point of this holiday. You may argue that it is a commercialized, contrived, hoax of a holiday, but I am going to argue that the point of Valentine’s Day is the authentic expression of love for others. Which is something that we really need right now in our society.
The authentic expression of love for others.
By providing the art materials and the free time with this “Valentine’s Table,” I expect my kids (and myself) to be creative. I expect them to create heart-felt, original art that expresses their true feelings for another person. Over these two weeks, I watch and hear my kids evaluate their relationships with each of their classmates. They think about who those people really are, what their passions are, and how they appreciate their personalities being in their lives. They also learn how to take these themes and move them into a visual, physical form of self-expression. They engage in a very sophisticated form of thought. Even though their products may not look that sophisticated.
This self-expression comes easy with their close friends. But more poignant is when they have to make a Valentine for someone who they perceive to be mean or who they don’t connect with.
My son experienced this with a girl in his class. After an in-depth discussion about bossiness, he realized that he didn’t really know much about her. So, he asked his best friend (who has a crush on her – Shhh!) why she is so great. He found out that she plays football with her older brother, and she loves FSU and ducks. He was so inspired by how much they have in common, that he wrote her a poem:
Which was almost as good as his “Baseballs are blue and helmets are hard,” poem that he then made after that.
This would have never happened if I would have caved and bought the packaged Valentine from the store.
It SURELY would not have happened if I got on Pinterest with the kids and picked out a handmade Valentine craft to make. End products disrupt the creative process and lead us away from authentic self-expression. (Think convergent verses divergent). I know it is hard; I love Pinterest too.
Be authentic. Be original.
Our children must hear this and see this from us. It must be our expectation of them. Do you know what else they need to hear?
When Valentine’s Day comes and it is time to pass cards out, my kids are so excited to share what they have worked so hard on. But they are also nervous, usually about the ones they are giving to kids that they don’t feel close to. There is a hesitation when wondering how their creativity and art will be received. Sometimes, there is even panic.
Is it good enough?
Am I good enough?
Did I risk too much?
Vulnerability is a fast track to personal growth. Teaching our kids to “show up” and “put themselves out there” will help them to be brave and to take risks in all areas of life. From personal relationships and careers to being a colleague that is easy to work with, vulnerability and creativity work well for people.
This is what you improve for your family when you allow them time and space to create. It allows us to become more informed versions of ourselves while helping us connect with others and the world around us.
My family (all 5 of us) found ourselves at the kitchen table a few nights ago doing our Valentines together. I don’t know how we all got there – the materials were available and we were available, so it happened. We sat around for almost two hours creating together. We laughed, heard stories about each other’s daily lives, were inspired by each other’s art, and challenged our artistic capabilities. There might have even been a few unicorns and rainbows.
This beautiful space eventually dissolved into an argument about toothpaste and who is going to go first, but in those couple of hours, I so deeply felt how great we all are together, how cool my kids are, and why Brian and I started this crazy, exhausting adventure of having a family.