I let my 5-year old stay up way too late last night. Daddy was watching football and well, I lost track of time. Sister was already asleep in her bed, snoring across the room. We started our usual bedtime routine (except that it was 10 pm instead of 7:30!). I crawled into his tent (which is a one-person tent, mind you, so it’s quite snug when mommy gets in). He has it packed full with fluffy pillows and soft blankets and stuffed animals, so it takes me awhile to get settled, having to rearrange things like the giant stuffed bear whose nose is digging into my back. It’s his private little cozy niche and he loves it.
We picked up where we left off the night before, reading The BFG by Roald Dahl (the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). We could not stop laughing. It is such a silly, but incredibly creative tale about giants and dreams and children. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say, it’s not for everyone. Some of the giants are bad and eat ‘human beans.’ But if you have an adventure-loving child who doesn’t scare easily, they will probably LOVE it!
I normally read a couple of chapters a night. But that night, we kept going. We must have been reading for over an hour. When your child is begging you, “Please mommy, one more chapter!” How can you say no? And honestly, I kind of wanted to know what happened to the bad giants, too. We finished the book that night. Of course, when I realized what time it was, I was annoyed at myself, knowing that we would both pay for it the next day with a serious case of the grumps. But, I think it was worth it. To see his little mind at work. To laugh out loud with him at all the silliness in the story. To enter another world and let ourselves get completely wrapped up in it.
The reason I’m sharing this is that I’ve noticed something: since I’ve started reading aloud to my kids, something has turned on inside my brain. It’s hard to articulate, but it feels like a part of me that has lain dormant for quite some time is slowly coming to life again. All the color and fantasy and mystery that was so familiar as a child is flooding back. My dreams are even more vivid and vibrant than before. My appetite for reading has gone way up. I am writing again. Regularly.
And what’s funny is, it wasn’t even intentional. I didn’t just decide that I would try to be more creative. It was already there. All I had to do was tap into the source. For me, that source comes from within. We are an inherently creative people. We all seek ways to express ourselves, to create beauty, to make sense of the world around us. But it isn’t anything we’ve earned. It’s something we’ve been given. What we do with it is up to us.
I believe in the Great Artist, the One who made rainbows and peacocks and flamingos and monkeys and waterfalls and jungles. The One who saved His best work for last, His magnum opus, the only work of art made in His image: man and woman. What does that say about us? We resemble the Sunset Artist, The Great Musician, The Father of the Universe, The Orchestra of the Ocean. How can creativity not be etched within the fibers of our very being?
I know some of you might say: I’m not the creative type. But I don’t buy that. I don’t think creativity is reserved for a select few, the artsy-fartsy-touchy-feely types. Even when I’m around my logical-rational-left-brained-CPA-math-science friends, who do tend to think and see the world quite differently from me, I still see amazing depths of creativity within them.
I don’t know what that creative thing is for you. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s painting. Maybe it’s decorating. Maybe it’s drawing. Maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s dancing. Whatever it is, I encourage you: don’t ignore that part of who you are!
I speak about this passionately, from painful experience. I brushed off this part of me for too long. I believe doing so was a huge contributor to my depression and anxiety (Read: Am I Going Crazy?). I was living life how I thought I was supposed to, doing what I should be doing as a mom, a wife, a Christian. Mostly, I did a lot of looking around at everyone else to see how they did things, then tried to copy them. In the process, I kept ignoring that still, small voice within that was whispering, ever so gently, telling me to slow down, to stop, to be still. I ignored that voice. And eventually, my body said: if you won’t stop, I will.
It took two crippling years of dark depression and intense anxiety for me to finally stop doing life the way I had been doing it and start asking God how He wanted me to do it. There were a lot of things He taught me during that period, but one of the main things He showed me was that writing is a life-giving, soul-filling creative outlet for me. I knew that. But I hadn’t prioritized it. It just didn’t seem important. Since then, however, I have learned to look at writing differently. Instead of thinking of it as a luxury, something that I should feel guilty about setting aside time for, I now try to view it as part of my ‘healthy regime.’ Just like with sleep and exercise and eating, writing is something that, if I go too long without, I will eventually feel the negative effects.
I don’t know what that creative outlet is for you, but I encourage you to find it. Perhaps it is something that you enjoyed doing as a child. Perhaps it is something you have always wanted to do but just haven’t ever had the time. Perhaps it is something that involves answering this question: If you could have any job in the world, what would it be? Reading great books gets the creative juices flowing for me. Listening to great music.
Revisit your childhood. Find that book or movie or play or concert or painting that made an impression on you. Rediscover those places you used to explore, those things that brought joy and life to your soul before you ‘grew up.’ You will be surprised at what might come bubbling, or even bursting out, when you go there.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. — Pablo Picasso