Monday, October 12, 2009

Creative Journey

Today was a good day.

We all have runny noses around here, and since the weather is pouring-down-crappy and there've been confirmed cases of swine flu at the preschool, I decided that was reason enough to let Sam play hooky today. After John took his morning nap, the three of us went to paint pottery at a nearby studio, which has quickly become my go-to activity with Sam. The boy has some untapped artistic abilities, and he really seems to enjoy it. Sam and John worked in tandem on a Christmas gift (I can't say for who because they might read my blog on occasion) and I bounced back and forth between them, pouring more paint and encouraging them to go nuts.

When I pictured motherhood, this is not what I saw of myself, strangely enough. I know I probably come across as artsy fartsy and free-wheeling, but I really have a hard time with the whole "going nuts" aspect of life. If you think about it, all my hobbies have pretty stringent rules. There's writing, with enough rules regarding structure, grammar, and spelling to give anyone a migraine. Embroidery, with its color-only-in-the-lines patterns, as well as the edict from above that the back should look as seamless as the front. And although I've tried it a couple of times, I've never been able to pull off anything but a realistic-looking doll.

In my personal life, too, I can't look back on any period of my life and say "I was totally out of control then." I attempted, on a few rare occasions, to get drunk and throw caution to the wind, but my conscious, an internal-harping-elderly-kill-joy quickly badgered me into returning to the straight and narrow. I'm just not comfortable saying "Do whatever you like."

But I did it today.

The pottery the boys made today is going to look gorgeous after it's fired, and it is 100% their work. I have a strict "Mommy-Hands-Off" policy when it comes to their artwork. And that is why there are drool marks in the paint, handprints, finger-painted swirls, drips, streaks, brush strokes, sponged dabs, and streams of colors not found in nature.

There is a saying for teachers--"The one who's doing the work is doing the learning," which basically means that if you want someone to learn something, you as the teacher must facilitate the experience, but then take a step back, and let your students do it, explore it, internalize it and learn it for themselves.

In stepping back, I'm learning a lot from my boys. Little boys can make stunningly beautiful objects with minimal supervision. There are no bounds to their creativity. They know how to go nuts. And they do it spontaneously and joyfully, just like they do everything else in life when they are allowed to act freely.

It makes me happy watching all that joy pour out of them. They are overflowing with pleasure and satisfaction and a sense of "I did that" without feeling constrained by any pre-conceived notions. It's a lesson I should put to use in my own work. Lately, even though I have a new-and-improved plot for my novel, I have a pre-conceived idea in my head of what it should look and sound like, and I can't even get an outline written that will translate to the page. I wish I wasn't so overburdened with plans and could just let go and write.

But even though my own creative output has currently slowed to a trickle, I can feed my need to create, at least vicariously, by facilitating the boys' creativity. It gives me the same rush as if I'd done the art myself, because art is all about exploring possibilities, and wherever my boys go, my heart travels with them.


  1. oh good, i was looking for a post from you today! and i really enjoyed this one.

    good for you, playing hooky with the boys and letting them have free rein with the glazes while you watch and learn from their spontaneity.

  2. I love that idea of the pottery and they aren't messing up your house either! I think if you try to be wild and throw caution to the wine then you never will. That's good that you have insight into yourself as to which activities and creative pursuits suit you and why. I find that really interesting. Maybe I have creative adhd. :)


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