Where does the creative process begin?
I’ve asked myself this question on many an occasion. Usually, the question centers around my own creative process, the book or short story or play I’m trying to write.
Not so lately.
You see, the missus and I recently introduced our toddlers to crayons.
This was a mistake.
Our kids love the crayons. Love them with a capital L, capital O, capital V, small e (so, not absolute, capital E, devotion). Love and use them in the most vile and unwholesome ways.
Which leads me to wonder aloud, far too frequently, “Where does the creative process begin?” in a whole new way.
I wonder this as I survey the bright carnation pink, blue, blue green, orange, yellow orange, and red orange (just how many shades of orange are there???) scars crisscrossing and looping over and around my (once) eggshell white walls.
And my polished hardwood floors.
And my bathroom door.
My bedroom door.
The sliding glass door leading to the backyard.
The screen door leading to the backyard. The freaking screen door.
The dining room table.
The dining room chairs.
The rolls of paper towels I will use in a futile attempt to erase the latest markings.
All of this begs the question, urgently begs the question: Where does the creative process begin?
One could rightfully answer that question with the response, “The parents. The parents stupid enough to give their kids crayons.”
Sadly, experience make it impossible for me to argue against that answer.
But truly, it does begin with parents. Parents who recognize and nurture creativity when they see it in their kids. Who don’t try to tamp it down, who don’t insist that their kids ‘buckle down to brass tacks’ or fit in or rein in their expressiveness with their bootstraps (or something along those lines). Parents who beam with pride as their children reach out into the world and experiment with their surroundings.
I suppose I should be pleased that my children are manifesting creative tendencies. But I’m not exactly thrilled just now. At least not with this particular tendency.
(Now don’t say, “Take away the crayons” like that’s the obvious solution. One, they cry like a busted dam when I do that, which always involves far more mucus than you’d have any reason to expect, and two, they’ve already squirreled away countless bits and pieces of the waxy vandal sticks in nooks and crannies where I will never find them. Stray crayon scrawls, like taxes, are now inevitable.)
My kids sing despite not being able to speak in complete sentences, and they dance despite not knowing any formal dance steps. This is extremely creative in my opinion, and I wholeheartedly support the development of this more intangible form of creativity. Singing and dancing also have the distinct benefit of not leaving any marks on my property. And by not leaving any marks on my property, they have the additional benefit of not requiring me to scrub my property. Over and over again.
(Not to mention the potential of videotaping these acts and uploading them to YouTube so as to embarrass my children as teenagers when they bring a date home for the first time. Never underestimate the embarrassment power of a two year old boy dancing to Born This Way by Lady Gaga while his full diaper hangs precariously by just one sticky tab – comedy and embarrassment gold!)
((Yes, we could play Raffi for them instead, but that just isn’t as funny to videotape.))
But right now, the crayon is King, and my kids are no longer interested in singing and dancing. Instead, they are intent on ravaging the landscape with their waxen weapons, leading me to ask myself:
“Where does the creative process begin? And how do I stop it?”