Amy L. Sullivan
A Lesson From Young Creators
Take my youngest daughter to the playground, and her agenda becomes clear.
She is not interested in swinging or sliding or mastering the corkscrew-looking apparatus kids twirl upon. Not my girl. Instead, my daughter collects forgotten treasures littering the ground aka random junk that borders on garbage.
Recently, she found a broken Lokai bracelet. It was magical. Later, an oversized juice lid proved to be the exact item needed to harness an Angus’ Datana. Don’t get me started on what the girl can do with Styrofoam or that I found a half-full dish detergent bottle nestled up to a small bear in her room or that she told the dentist she would floss her teeth but she can’t because she needs all of the floss in the house to complete her projects.
My girl’s collecting makes for a full, spare parts bin (an actual, plastic mini-suitcase), but does it make for anything worthwhile? Anything that functions, anything that doesn’t make me itch, anything that doesn’t consist of glitter and smashed-up flowers from the neighbor’s yard and Febreze?
I contend it might. See, my girl’s creating might be just that, creating, but often I wonder if my girl’s tinkering is a sign of what’s ahead.
In addition to my youngest daughter, the spare parts collector, I also have a fourteen-year-old. I can’t think of my eldest daughter’s early years without thinking of the words construction paper and hot glue gun. Our house was littered with signs, banners, and 3-D paper creations declaring her love and appreciation for us. Paper was everywhere. It looked as if someone shredded a ream of paper and used it as confetti in every room of our home.
But one day instead of seeing confetti, I turned around and saw this.
All of my girl’s folding, cutting, and desire to share words of encouragement turned into origami greeting cards. Cards she sells, the kind of cards people (and I’m not just talking family members) call and ask to buy.
Then there’s my neighbor girl, the one who always toted a camera. The one who even at the young age of eleven, popped by our house to take family photos, and the photos were actually good. She’s up to this.
I can’t forget about another teen I know, Emma. The girl taught herself to embroider, and now Emma runs a shop called Hooplee and makes these beauties.
These girls took a risk and toiled through the stage of what-if-this-doesn’t- turn-out-to-be-anything, and they won. They didn’t win because they created beautiful products. They won because they used the interests and talents God planted in their hearts. They paid attention. They grew their gifts.
Kids get it. The end result of what they create doesn’t have to be grand (although, hello, the above products are pretty grand).
Most of the time, when I start a writing project, I frantically pound out words and quickly declare what I’ve written total garbage, the worst combination of words paper has ever seen, a document that should die an unnoticed death in my computer’s trash bin.
I don’t like to wade through the part of creating where I can’t see the end result, and I worry that if I could, I wouldn’t like it.
As I plunge into Day 2 of summer vacation, I’m trying to learn a thing or two from my favorite young creators: Stop worrying. Grow your gifts. Enjoy yourself.
It’s the same message Neil Gaiman gave in one of my all-time favorite speeches. Let’s see if you can relate.
First of all, when you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and they know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. ~Neil Gaiman, “Make Good Art” speech
Your turn. Tell me about the young creators you know. Leave links. I’d like to show them love. Tell me how you create. Tell me about the results you get and what gets in the way of you creating.