Photograph by Luca Upper
A paper plate and a rainbow-colored crayon.
16 rambunctious two and three-year-olds.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played through tinny iPhone speakers.
Utter joy in creating.
A few weeks ago, while teaching my BSF class, I once again witnessed the consistent truth that children naturally find unbridled joy in creating.
These kids had two things: a paper plate and a multi-layered crayon, but the things they did with them were boundless: trying different angles with the crayon to see what color they would get, running the crayons along the ridges of the plate, hitting the plate to make short staccato marks, or making great sweeps of color as they seemed to engage their whole bodies in their creative play.
Not only did each one have a blast creating work, each one was proud of their work.
Why? Because there were no consequences for how “good” their coloring was. They were just coloring because it was fun.
As we grow up, we learn to attach consequences to a creative act. Embarrassment or pride. Making money or losing money. Adulation or being ignored.
What if there were no consequences?
Now I’m not trying to pretend we don’t live in the real world here. I’m well aware that, particularly if you are trying to build a career out of your art, there are consequences to your work. And I’m certainly not advocating doing anything unlawful or immoral with your work because…no consequences!
What I’m saying is this: when we prepare to create, most of us put the cart before the horse. Our minds reel with everything that could happen if we put the effort into creating: No one will care. It will be a waste of time. They won’t understand me. I’m going to look stupid. I’m not going to make any money from this…why bother? I’m not good enough. I’ll never be good enough.
It’s human nature to have fears, particularly when you’re being vulnerable. Being creative is an intensely vulnerable act.
So how do you move past the fears and allow yourself to create?
You must let the joy of creating be more important than your fears.
Simply put, you have to allow yourself create for no other reason than It. Is. Fun.
Photograph by Rhondak
When your focus becomes creating for the joy of it, suddenly you have a million rebuttals to all the annoying doubting in your head:
No one will care. I care.
It will be a waste of time. How can it be a waste of time if it is good for my soul? It’s only going to make me a happier person to be around.
They won’t understand me. Doing this helps me understand myself more.
I’m going to look stupid. Probably not. And even if I do, maybe that will inspire someone else to take a risk, too.
I’m not going to make any money from this. Well, I might. But often, the most important things we do in life don’t make us any money.
I’m not good enough. Good enough for what…playing and having fun? The more I do this, the better I will get.
Sometimes, we need a little help silencing those annoying doubts.
There’s a lot of emotion built up around our chosen medium, and it can be hard to just grit your teeth and make yourself feel free, darn it! That’s why this week, we are going to get waaay back to basics.
We are going to color.
Your materials couldn’t be simpler. A piece (or more) of plain paper. Something to color with.
You may have some markers and crayons of your children’s laying around. Or you could go out and pick yourself up a shiny new box of crayons. I’m well aware that a Crayola 120 pack is $7 worth of pure joy 🙂
We’re going to do what I did with my BSF kids: we are going to color to music. Only, instead of Vivaldi, I want you to choose your very favorite album. The one that makes you feel great. This could be a guilty pleasure type of thing. Or maybe Vivaldi actually is your favorite and, well, you’re just a classier person than me. 🙂
I dare you to put on that album and just go crazy with your crayons. Try to do what the music is doing with your hands: make short, choppy marks or ethereal swoops depending on what the song tells you. Or you could just do your own thing and doodle birds and flowers while you listen to your favorite music. There is literally no wrong way to do this.
The only “wrong” way is to not do it because it’s “silly”.
Um, what is wrong with being silly? Remember, we are trying to train ourselves to have fun again! Most of us are harried adults who have gotten way too good at being serious. We have a long way to go to “silly”.
Now, you may be wondering where you will find time to do this: remember, you can do this for as long or as little as you want. You could just do a song or two, although I think it would be delicious to get lost in an entire album, don’t you?
Are you worried you won’t have enough time alone to do this? No problem! It would be wonderful introvert time to do this by yourself, but if that is not a possibility for you, no worries! This would be so fun to do together with your kids. Or how about a date night? Both of you bring your choice of music and have fun coloring to your favorite albums. Coloring, wine, and love sounds like an awesome night, frankly!
You guys, do this! Do it just because It. Is. Fun.
And then pop back on here and tell us how it went!
I want to hear:
What music you listened to,
Who you did it with, if applicable, and:
How did it make you feel?
And I will be sharing my experience, too!
I literally can’t wait. My Crayolas are burning a hole in their drawer.