This is a drawing done by Alice, my four-year-old granddaughter. She was exuberant as she made it, yet concentrated hard. She presented it to me as a gift, slowly and proudly naming and describing each color and shape.
How many of us do that as adults?
How often do we have the exuberance and passion and confidence to put color or line or words on paper, or music in the air, or dance on the floor and take pride in it?
How often do we create something for the simple joy of creating and to feel the joy of being fully alive?
Would we ever give our creations to as gifts? Or play our music for our friends?
Too often, if we even show something we’ve made to someone else, we diminish it, saying, “It’s not that good.”
Worse, we give up altogether and leave creativity to others.
How many times have you heard a friend say, “I’m not creative”? I’ve heard it countless times and even said it myself until I discovered that that very statement stopped me in my tracks.
We lose a huge source of joy–a simple, available, cost-free way to come alive– when we disconnect from our natural creativity.
What happens to us, to our enthusiasm, to our pride in our creations? Where do we lose that exuberance and passion? How is it that we begin to compare ourselves to others, to hide our creations, and then ultimately to stop creating altogether?
How in the world does that happen?
We can certainly trace it back to clueless teachers, parents, older siblings. A school system that grades our art and song and dance. Or chooses academics over creativity, even when studies show that programs in the arts improve brain development and student performance.
But does that even matter now that we’re adults?
A lot of the problem happens in our very adult, very reasonable heads—we give ourselves the very messages that thwart us.
And that does matter. It matters a lot, because we can do something about that.
Your creative brain will shut down whenever you switch into critiquing what you’re doing. Creativity and critical analysis are different brain functions and don’t work at the same time. They’re both good and necessary, but they need to be separated.
We have power over when we analyze what we’re doing and the stories we tell ourselves about our creativity. And that’s really good news.
So next time you’re tempted to criticize or deny your creative endeavors, or to not even try to attempt something you might be secretly yearning to do, remember how it felt to do something with the exuberance of a four-year-old.
Let’s think like they do. Let’s all reclaim Alice’s artistic exuberance and joy. Let’s reclaim a four-year-old’s passion to create, just because we’re alive and have two hands capable of putting crayons to paper!
Creative expression is such a precious resource for feeling fully alive. And we all have it.
All you need to do to reclaim it is to give the critical part of your brain a rest and let the creative part take over.
So grab your paints and brushes or your guitars and harmonicas. Sign up for a class that interests you. Tie on your dancing shoes.
And then think like a four-year-old.