When exactly is that moment when we lose it?
Is the loss subtle and quiet, sliding away with sigh, or is it a loud, crashing knowledge that we have unequivocally changed?
I’m not referring to the loss of our precious insanity – highly overrated anyway, if you ask me – or anything of a more personal nature. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering at what age, what pivotal moment in our lives do we lose the ownership of our creative genius. When does it happen that most of us make the decision that we are completely unable to draw, paint, sing, or dance?
I’m an artist and it’s always made me a little sad when I’m told by someone admiring my work, “Oh, that’s so great. I can’t even draw a straight line!” Frankly, who would want to draw a straight line unless you’re indicating on a map the shortest distance? The reality of this phenomenon hit home at a luncheon I attended for the business community. We were treated to a presentation by humorist and motivational speaker Craig Zablocki, who at one point asked the room of 200 or more ‘how many in here could paint a picture if I asked you to?’ I modestly held up my hand, as did about a dozen other people. When he next inquired who could sing a song upon request, about the same number of hands went up, although mine was definitely not among them. Hey, I know my limitations! At that point the speaker asked us how many hands would go up if he asked an equally large room full of first graders.
We all knew the answer. Many chuckled uncomfortably.
So when did that happen? Me, I always adored singing and joined the choir at school each year. But once in junior high on meet-the-teacher day, one of my parents joked to my choir teacher that I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I know it wasn’t meant maliciously, but I believe that was my last year as a public school warbler. Don’t worry, I’m not on the analysts couch now ready to share my traumatic childhood issues. I know I wouldn’t have pursued art with as much passion if it wasn’t for parental support and cheerleading.
I doubt most of us had a defining moment (or offhanded comment) that molded our creative futures. I also don’t believe that our childish zeal and confidence in those abilities are permanently extinguished. No, I think along the way as we discover who we are – strengths and weaknesses included – it quietly goes to sleep.
If my hopeful theory is correct, we should be able to awaken that creative energy and stretch it like an underused muscle. You can start out by drawing a straight line. (No, I’m kidding. Who cares if you can draw a straight line?) I personally recommend singing with great abandon in your shower. Dance like a weed-whacker in your living room. Or go to one of those shops like Paint Your Pots or Studio Vino. There’s a reason those businesses are growing in popularity, not to mention the still popular karaoke craze. Besides being a lot of fun, people are finding out that being artful and creative effects other aspects of their lives. A little bravery from the right side of our brain can only help to increase the successes in the professional arena.
If you sing, dance, or paint because you simply want to, then you can! As for me, I vow to nurture that confidence in my young daughter while I continue to torture her in the car with my loud and proud renditions of those Eagles’ classics on the radio. Now, go. Nudge that creative genius of your own.