My son, Michael, has a larger than life personality. He’s a total blast to be around and he makes our family more fun. When he was 4 years old, one early January morning we woke up to nearly 12 inches of snow covering our small town in central Arkansas. We had gotten snow in Michael’s lifetime, but nothing like this. As you can imagine, Michael immediately wanted to get out and play in the snow. So we bundled up, threw our sleds into the back of my Jeep, and headed to the best sledding hills near our house. When we parked, I got out of my frozen Jeep to help Michael out of the tall Jeep. As he slid out the door and landed in the snow, his boots made the loud “crunch” noise that rubber boots make in the snow. Michael immediately looked up at me in astonishment! “What was that?!” He immediately plopped his right foot back down into the snow, and then the left, one after another, over and over. He was mesmerized by the sound of the fresh, crunchy snow. We quickly began to walk over to the area where we would begin sledding. Michael, with his senses on high alert, giving commentary all along the way. “Look how blue the sky is, dad!” “What does snow taste like?!” “Is that tree more green than usual?!” I quickly realized that Michael and I were looking at the same things, but he was noticing so much more.
I was learning to see the world anew through the eyes of a 4 year old that day. If it hadn’t been for Michael I wouldn’t have noticed half of the beauty around me. Michael taught me an important lesson, I need to become more childlike.
Another word for childlike is the word amateur. When we begin creating as kids, we’re all amateurs, none of us are professionals. The Latin root for the word amatuer means “to love”. If you think back to your childhood you might be able to remember what it’s like to create just because you love to do so. You’re not creating for a specific project, you’re not creating to make money, rather, you’re creating because it’s part of who you are and because it’s fun. Many of us need to rediscover the love of creating. We need to cultivate an amateur’s imagination, allowing ourselves to create just for the fun of it.
Many of us need to rediscover the love of creating. We need to cultivate an amateur’s imagination, allowing ourselves to create just for the fun of it.
Years ago Zoologist Desmond Morris ran an experiment with chimpanzees in the zoo that he was working at. He began giving the chimpanzees paint and blank canvases inside their exhibit. The chimps absolutely loved creating. In fact, they got so consumed with painting that their keepers noted they would hardly stop even to eat meals. Their paintings were remarkably artistic, with some of them even becoming quite notable after the experiment was finished. But then, a few weeks into the experiment the zoologist began rewarding the chimps for their work by giving them bananas. Subsequently, the chimps began to do only enough work to earn the reward. The quality and quantity of their work decreased.
I, too, am often like these chimps when it comes to creative work. I forget to create because I love it, and I create because I have a deadline or because I am wanting some external reward. My quality and quantity of work is also greatly affected by this mindset.
What would it look like for us to get back to the joy and love of creating? What would happen if we allowed ourselves to get lost in creating more often, less concerned with the outcome and more concerned with playfully enjoying the process?
In my experience, if we don’t cultivate this type of amateur imagination, our inner critic often becomes bigger than our inner creator. Oftentimes we need to silence the critic and feed the creative inside of us. When we cultivate lives like this, we may experience dry seasons, but we can always get back to the love of creating.