Recapturing the small pleasures of nurturing creativity in the waning days of summer

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Summer is waning and with Labor Day weekend around the corner, I’ve been feeling nostalgic. Some days when it’s warm and I swim outside, memories will surface about going to the neighborhood pool as a kid or going on picnics. One of my former coaches used to say that it’s enjoyable to participate in the sport of triathlon because all three activities — swimming, biking and running — were probably the ones we loved the most in the summer as kids.

I remember eating M&Ms and doing somersaults in the pool, trying to not get water up my nose. At home, my sisters and I used to draw road outlines in colored chalk on our front patio and take turns driving our red wagon or riding our tricycles “inside the (street) lines.”

With the lovely weather we’ve had on the East Coast these past few weeks, I’ve been very motivated to be outside — I walk my dog, ride my bike and I swim, which gives me room and time to think about engaging in other activities that feed the soul.

Several years ago, I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I participated in a “creative cluster” when I first moved to New York; my fellow group members and I hand wrote 3 pages every day — first thing in the morning as Julia advocates. We talked about our weekly Artist’s Dates and went through the exercises in the book. At about the same time I was experimenting with sketching out design ideas for work and found out that we really do engage our brains differently when we write or sketch by hand rather than using a computer. To this day, when I’m having trouble writing at the computer, I pick up a notebook and write by hand to get things started.

But to me, nurturing creativity is all about enjoying a sense of play, whether it’s baking, singing in the car or writing for yourself — the type of writing you don’t show to anyone because it’s not (and may never be) ready for another person’s prying, critical eyes.

The sense of accomplishment is private, it’s about working on something for fun, not so much about completing a project for a deadline.

There’s a great Arthur Koestler quote about creativity that hints at this private learning process that doesn’t need external validation:

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil reside in the same individual.

My parents used to buy DAS modeling clay for me when I was a kid, and I used to create all sorts of tchotchkes with it. I would let them dry outside on the balcony, then paint and varnish them, sometimes applying plastic trinkets that at the time, looked like precious jewels to me.

At one point I absconded with one of my Mom’s cookie cutters (the one in the shape of a star) and while they were still damp, I would create faces on my “stars” with a stylus. When they dried, I would paint all manner of complexions on them: stripes in otherwordly shades and imaginative color combinations. Then I started creating masks and model cars from the clay, then round character heads with pug noses and little caps. At some point I abandoned my modeling clay projects but somewhere in there I also remember drawing a portfolio of every possible costume and hairstyle from all the countries and cultures I could think of.

I don’t think the drawings were noteworthy, but I loved creating them and I loved having a project to work on that absorbed me completely.

I have in mind a couple of writing projects that I will start but keep private for now. If and when they are ready, I just may share them with the world to see what type of response I get. Somewhere inside, I still believe that if I do what I love, the money will follow.


Photo Credits
Clay fruit — griffhome
Stars — clarism_4




Categories: Culture, Healthy and Organic lifestyle, Our Times

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