What You Might be Missing

My youngest daughter is a free spirit.  She’ll turn anything—even work—into play! It drives me crazy! When I ask her to do the dishes, she fills the sink with bubbles and makes “shakes” in the dirty cups or spreads the suds around—bubbles on her face, on her arm, on her sister. “Look!” She’ll exclaim with every new creation. I’m not impressed.

It was worse when she was younger.  I would be brushing her hair when suddenly I couldn’t find the hair tie or comb! Frantically, I’d scour the seat or the hair box with one hand, still holding a tuft of hair with the other– “where is it?!”  I’d yell. 

Oh, here. The sought-after accessory would be carefully wound around the brush my child was holding as she mumbled lines from some scene in her head. Oblivious to my agenda–in the span of 10 seconds–she had gotten lost in her imagination. The brush, comb and hair tie were now key players in her kitchen table production! Ugh.

But, if I say I value creativity, why don’t I appreciate my daughter’s creative play? Because the messiness and unpredictability don’t fit into my daily grind.  I have appointments, reports, errands, and bills—I don’t have time for play!

Yet, in the rush to quantify success, perhaps we have discounted the value of creativity which doesn’t manifest in neat and tidy outputs. Creativity is play and work.  It is messy and disorderly. It disrupts norms and laughs at standards. Yet, without creativity, we would have a world full of neat and orderly sameness, uninspired—even if efficient—activity.

In her book Cultivate: A Grace-FIlled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life, Lara Casey describes her daughter slowing down their daily walk to pick up twigs and leaves, “trying to get me to see the beauty and wonder that she was seeing,” but this detour was not on the itinerary. Taking the scenic route delays progress to the destination; but, Casey points out that “God is in the small and unexpected nooks and crannies, if we are willing to unrush our pace to pay attention to what’s growing” (158).

“Harvest work is intentional” she says. It’s “noticing the fruit that God has grown in your life and doing something with it. But if you are rushed, or are constantly distracted by what isn’t growing, you’ll miss it.” (162)

So, what am I missing?

There’s plenty that isn’t growing when I sit down to write, but there’s also fruit that God has grown in my life that has the potential to be food for thought—food that brings life. Too often, instead, I rush past my writing desk–too busy, too distracted or too defeated to consider the potential that’s there. Someone once said that the greatest novels lie dead in the grave because those who would have written them never took time to explore. This can’t be how my story ends. Rather than confine myself to the orderly path, I must take a lesson from my daughter and reconsider creativity.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.

So, what about you? What ideas might you explore if you slowed your pace and paid attention?  What creative venture might you try that you’ve put off because you don’t “have time”? It’s not just the destination that matters. There are lessons and growth that happen along the way.

Let’s not miss it!

Cover photo courtesy of Derek Thomson on Unsplash

Ready to explore creativity? Look out for more on this subject in future posts. In the meantime, get inspired by these creativity sites:

The Creativity Post— a platform dedicated to sharing the very best content on creativity; facilitates dialogue between various disciplines of inquiry 

Creative Thinking— unveils the secrets of creative genius and brings life-changing creative techniques within everyone’s reach

Creativity Portal— host to a wide library of original content and features including prompts, articles, and interviews

Mayhem Monday: Just Be You!

The Occasion

Recently my daughter was inducted into the National Honor Society, a prestigious organization, in existence since 1921, that recognizes the achievements of young people who have excelled in scholarship, service, leadership, and character. It was a very big deal that she was chosen. She worked hard to submit the requisite materials and, in general, she has worked hard over the years to be the type of individual worthy of this honor.

However, my daughter is my husband’s child, which means that she is also known for her wise cracks and silliness in spite of her serious aspirations.

So, on the night of the induction, as all of the distinguished youth in their crisp uniforms marched dutifully to the stage to receive their certificates and officially enter the esteemed ranks, the moderator provided the audience with some background on each of them–their grade level, their career goals, what school they planned to attend and their favorite quote. These gave a snapshot of each student and an impression of the type of person each is and will become.

As the names were called parents and guests smiled politely as one student after another filed past until finally it was my daughter’s turn. Of course, I knew what her grade level, career and school was going to be, but I wondered about her inspirational quote. Some of the other kids had given some impressive ones. Then came the moderator’s voice “and her favorite quote is “just do you boo!

Suddenly, the polite smiles cracked into thunderous laughter. So much for the seriousness of the occasion.

For all her intelligence and academic ability, at the end of the day my daughter will always be her father’s child!

The Reality

She’ll also always stay grounded in what really matters–being herself. Sure, she cared about the occasion. Sure, she was embarrassed by the disruption–it was actually unintended, but it also represented a very real part of her personality that I respect.

While the other kids had impressive quotes, many had looked theirs up on the internet. They had aligned themselves with an expectation and a standard rather than thinking for themselves. For all the “criticism” my daughter received for her quote, most were actually impressed by her authenticity–it became the catch phrase of the evening!

She may have been unorthodox, but she was true to herself.

Her quote may not have been eloquent, but her point was well made. When it’s all said and done, what matters most in life–what’s really going to get you through–whether it’s academics, or other aspirations–is being true to you! If you’re worried about what others think you’ll always be hampered. So, if you think about it, her simplicity is actually quite profound.

I love it.  Do you, boo.

Happy Monday!

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In case you were wondering…yes! I’ve used this image before, in an earlier post, but I decided to revise it with my daughter’s catch phrase which captures the essence of what I was saying in “A Lesson from My Unruly Curls” even better. Less is more!

A Lesson from my Unruly Curls!

Being a writer or artist of any kind is a lot like having curly hair–it’s a struggle!
Anyone who has ever tangled with a mass of wild curls knows the overwhelm of taking on a battle that you’ll never win. Curls are inherently disobedient! They’ll rise to the heavens when you want them down-to-earth. They’ll run away from the neat little bun you try to pin them in, and if you decide to try more extreme alternatives, like transforming them all together–you know, making them something they’re not– you’re in for an extensive and intensive process involving heat and/ or chemicals, which is not only painful, but also temporary. The curls will inevitably re-emerge. Meanwhile, you’re that person in the witness protection program, checking over your shoulder for the menacing rain cloud, humidity or sweat bead that threatens to bring the curls back! And woe to you if you’re caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella! Then you’re Cinderella making a mad dash before midnight when the magic disappears and the real you is revealed!

See… the “real you” is complicated. Like the temperamental curls, you can’t be easily contained. Maybe you don’t fit into any particular box. Your style breaks the rules and falls outside of pre-set categories. But, being different is a good thing, right? Unless your difference isn’t appreciated. So, how then do you find your niche? Your voice? Your place? Are you gonna be the red-headed step child or the favored blonde? It’s not just a problem for writers, but all creatives trying to find their place in an industry that’s fickle; in a field that’s looking for the “next big thing,” but no one knows what that is!
Perhaps we should take a lesson from our unruly curls!

Curls resist change.

Although they can be lengthened and stretched, they defy total transformation. Naturally curly hair is difficult to keep straight without extreme measures that are damaging to the hair. Likewise, while it is necessary to be flexible and relevant, the essence of who you are should be non-negotiable. You do damage to your sense of self when you try to change to fit in or be acceptable to others. You can be acceptable without changing who you are.

Curls have their own beauty.

In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown describes her discovery that true belonging is achieved, not through the affirmation of those around us, but from the affirmation we give ourselves. You have to learn, first, she says, how to belong to yourself.

Looking inward rather than outward gives us insight into our purpose and a connection with our Creator that no attachment to an outside source can substitute. By what standard do we measure our value? By what others think or by how well we fulfill God’s purpose for us? It’s easy to get caught up in how many “likes” we have on social media rather than reflecting on the work, the purpose and the inherent value of what we do apart from the attention it gets. If something I write, or something you sing touches one life, was it worth it? Was it pretty enough to matter? I say yes!

Curls are free
Long tendrils coil tightly around our fingers and cling stubbornly to each other in a daily tug of war, but we can surrender the fight. The best thing to do with defiant curls is to set them free! Give them a good conditioning, maybe a headband if you must, then let them fly! If you’re not confined to a particular genre or category you can flourish. You are free to explore forms and styles that would otherwise be off limits. You can create new combinations of words and sounds, colors or kinds. Whatever your craft, the possibilities are endless when your free!

So, before manipulating our strands for purposes that aren’t meant to be, why not follow the zig-zag to its natural end and see what’s there? Let go of expectations and be open for exploration! Let’s give up the battle we’re never going to win and embrace the wild and beautiful differences that make us who we are!

Happy week!

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Do you know a curly girl? Get more lessons from the curly world here! Read more creativity articles. Check out “What You Might Be Missing” and “On Writing and Magic”

Photo by Bobby Rodriguezz on Unsplash