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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Parent's Reason for Creativity

So I was thinking about Justine Musk's 10 reasons to pursue creative work, and I realized I had one more reason, as a parent, to pursue my creative passions.

When I was working hard at getting my children to read, I read an article that claimed that the number one way to encourage children to read wasn't by reading to them (although that is important) but rather by reading in front of them, to yourself, in your free time. The article (which I wish I could cite but can't) argued that children who read have parents who read; the authors found a high statistical correlation between the two groups.

(And I guess I have done my part to make my kids readers. When one son was much younger, we were playing that silly game of "I love you more than ice cream sundaes," "Well, I love you more than a day at the beach," etc. when I said "I love you more than books." That brought my son up short. "Really?" he asked in a doubtful voice. "Of course," I assured him. "Just a minute," he said, and then he bounded away to boast to his brother, "Mom loves me more than books," which brought the second son running to ask, "Really?")

Anyway, I think the same principle applies to creativity. Rather than telling our children to go draw a picture while we finish answering emails for work, if we show them that creativity really is a value in our lives by devoting our precious free time to it, we are teaching them that it is okay, even highly desirable, for them to devote their time and efforts to creative projects as well.

I once read an article that said it was only natural that the children of actors tended to become actors, and the children of doctors to become doctors, etc., since becoming an actor or a doctor or any of a myriad of professions seems like a risky business against nearly impossible odds if you don't personally know an actor or a doctor; but if you know one, even live with one, it seems like a perfectly reasonable goal to want to be one. And the same is probably true for creativity; if you live with someone who expresses their creativity, it will seem perfectly reasonable to spend time cultivating your own.

My own mother used to do toll painting in the basement after putting us kids to bed at night. That made a huge impression on me, that she could have watched television, could have read a book, and surely must have been tired after spending the day caring for 8 kids, but she still went into the basement to paint.

So parents, here's yet another reason for you to commit time doing your creative work.


Tatjana said...

I have also read quite a few articles on this same topic - being a role model for your kids, show them, don't tell, that same concept. And so many times when I feel, well, slightly overwhelmed, or maybe slightly out of control, I remind myself - OK, my son will learn this or that the way I learned it from my parents, simply by watching me.

But, when my creative work is in question, I always have this thought (maybe because my son is only two): I am sitting at the computer writing or revising my stories while my son might be playing with my husband, I am doing something I love very much, I would like to show my son how important it is to find an hour or two or whatever time you have to devote to something that's meaningful to you, but I don't like the fact that all my son can see (and can fully understand at this age) is Mommy attached to a computer. I know this will get resolved when he gets just a little older, but, at this point, it's on my mind every time I sit down to write and my son can see me.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

You have a good point. I hadn't thought of that because I write in a notebook (or in certain colored notebooks) so my kids know when I am writing as opposed to when I am working (on the computer). Maybe you could hang something on the doorknob or from the back of your chair, something whimsical or book-related, and explain to your son that when he sees that, it's because you are writing your book. Some kind of signal so your son learns to associate the time you are writing with you working on your creative project. At age 2, he probably still won't get it, but it might be a start.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

It would be easier, Tatjana, if our tools were clay or a paintbrush, something we don't use in our everyday lives, to signal to our kids what we are doing.

I remember reading a quote from Annie Dillard where she said that as a kid when she was working on a project in the basement and she asked her parents if they wanted to come down and see it, they told her, No, dear, it's nice you have a project. Run along and work on it and leave us adults to our activities.

And I was horrified. But Dillard wrote it was such a gift to her to learn from her mother that she was free to work on her projects and her parents were free to work on their projects, and everybody could be happy that way.

It's still not how I relate to my kids, but it does help me when I feel guilty that I am working on my project while they are happily working on theirs, to remember that for some people, that kind of freedom is a gift.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

By the way, I was wildly paraphrasing on the Dillard story. If I go back and find it, it may be much different than I remember it.