Writing in Your Underwear and Creative Expression

Writing in Your Underwear and Creative Expression

Writing in Your Underwear and Creative Expression

A large sampling of the most eminent creators in history had to develop their own, unique processes to support creative production. How might we grant this latitude to those creative minds who haven't yet developed into producers - children - to undergird their growth in creative expression?

Can you believe that there was a guy who couldn’t eat until he calculated the cubic volume of his food, and a woman who was inspired to write by looking at cows, so she sat by a field most days?  Another man had many dinner parties but sometimes made guests uncomfortable when he passed them in complete silence in a state of deep contemplation.  And believe it or not, one guy dressed in his suit and took the elevator with businessmen leaving for work; instead of going with them, he went to the basement of the building, took off his suit, and wrote in his boxers (Currey, 2013).  

The reader might consider the above lives and think that a visit to a psychologist, a behavior training plan, or a prescription might be needed to normalize these folks.  On the other hand, if you knew that the anecdotes referred to Nikola Tesla, Gertrude Stein, Sigmund Freud, and John Cheever, respectively, you might shrug your shoulders and give them the benefit of the doubt.  After all, the contributions that these individuals made to the world were enormous, so what of it if one was anti-social when absorbed in his thoughts, or another wrote in his underwear?

In Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey catalogued the creative lives of hundreds of artists, scientists, writers, composers, and other eminent creators.  It is fascinating to have a look into their everyday routines, and to learn how they made time for deeply creative work amidst life’s distractions.  Though it seems a contradiction to pair creatives and routines, one of the most intriguing messages from the book is that each individual approached creative work in his or her own way.  Sure, there were some themes, but Daily Rituals speaks to the freedom of the individual to do what works for him or her.  Yes, some of these individuals had eccentric ways.  But, as asked before, what of it?  Andy Warhol, Glenn Gould, and Frank Lloyd Wright made enormous contributions to the world, and they all approached the creative process in a way that worked for them.  

It’s no stretch to grant this latitude to those who have proven themselves with creative production, but what about those creative minds who haven’t yet developed into producers?  What about children?  Daily Rituals shows that the habit of creating is as individual as the person.  Some people have routines for creating, some don’t.  Creativity is a natural process and people have to bring their own identities to it.  Some have eccentricities that they apply as they learn in the way that they learn best and become prolific in whatever they pursue.  Many take breaks to daydream or walk or, like Stravinsky, stand on their heads to clear the mind.  Had Stravinsky been told to stop taking headstand breaks or been diagnosed with some type of “isn’t fitting in” disorder, would we have The Rite of Spring or The Firebird?

In this day and age, when we see children deviating from what we consider to be the norm we often think they need to be fixed, whether the child is not making eye contact, is sitting under his desk for a moment of quiet, is staring at the ceiling while we are lecturing on, or does not want to play soccer after school because he prefers to be home with a book.  We have developed a fix-it mentality for children, requiring them to be on the same page of the math book at the same time, no matter how they learn, because they need to keep up so they can perform on tests and stay on the “path to success.”  This outlook, I believe, has caused us to forget that people are different and that differences are OK.  What if instead of asking the question, “How can I fix this child?” we asked, “What lights this child up to do her best work?”

How might we start from the premise of the individual when approaching education?  Thought leader Sir Ken Robinson (2009) said, “We all have distinctive talents and passions that can inspire us to achieve far more than we may imagine.  Understanding this changes everything” (p. 8).  Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, confirms that a large sampling of the most eminent creators in history had to develop their own, unique processes to support creative production.  Wouldn’t this suggest that helping children find what works for them might support them as they grow in confidence and creative expression?  After all, we adults are responsible for the lives that will populate future volumes of Daily Rituals.

Currey, Mason.  (2013).  Daily rituals: How artists work.  New York, NY: Knopf.

Robinson, K. (2009).  The element: How finding your passion changes everything.  New York, NY: Viking.

Copyright 2014 Kathryn Haydon.  All Rights Reserved.

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