The urges to construct things, to draw, to sing, to dance, to cook, to tell stories burst forth from human beings. Creativity is natural to our species. The legacy of humankind is present in prehistoric cave paintings, the statuary of ancient China, the artifacts of Meso-America, and the works of Michelangelo. Give a young child a box of wooden blocks and soon, she will be engrossed in creative play.
By far, my high school best friend’s favorite class was music. Another close friend had a hand-me-down Nikon camera and was engrossed in “serious” photography. I favored art class. The teacher was a multi-talented woman who made pottery and painted canvasses for profit. I admired all of these people. Yet I felt frustrated that I couldn’t create beautiful things like they did.
The one activity I excelled at, was sketching cars. One day, I might need to draw a production model Ford, another day I wanted to sketch a GT racer, and maybe the next day I’d compose a design that was entirely my own. I dreamed of becoming a stylist for a major auto corporation. I had plenty of original concepts to offer.
Unfortunately, I listened to dad, my teachers and my school councelor. They advised me to be more practical. I was told to direct my energies into something that paid well, so I could support a family. I should develop skills that local businesses could utilize. I did put forth honest effort towards those goals, but my heart just wasn’t in them. When my homework was finished, I’d open my sketchbook, bring out a pencil or pen and begin to create more car designs.
The other day, I searched high and low for an example of my youthful car drawings. I wanted an example for this article. I used to have dozens of sketchbooks filled with them, but now, there are none. Just like my dreams of working in the design studios of General Motors or Ferrari, my unique cars have vanished.
Luckily, I was headstrong enough to direct my energies into mass media. Thankfully, I did receive plenty of support from family and peers in that venture. I was fortunate to find a place where management allowed a lot of leeway for creative instincts to run free.
I sometimes think of creative energy in terms of the magma beneath Earth’s crust. It’s always present and it constantly needs to find a way to rise to the surface. Sooner or later, creative energy must burst forth like Mount Vesuvius. There seems to be no way to stop it. Even when we become dispirited, something inside awaits eruption as a new creative beginning.
If you’re a parent, a school teacher, or someone who is the friend of a child, you have a great opportunity to watch a real creative beginning in real time. We can either manipulate that kid into our own image, or we can guide him towards developing his own inate talents. It’s not our place to “play god”. It is our place to guide and encourage the child to follow his or her own dreams and make the mistakes necessary in order to thrive.
Someday, maybe I’ll try my hand at car design again. However, right now, there are plenty of other projects in the que.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Charles Brower. “A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip; and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”