“You know, Laura, you really can’t do this. Would you like to leave the class?”
Wait. What? I was part of a group paying this person to teach us basic watercolor techniques. During the second class she offered me the door and a partial refund.
That’s exactly the thing that life, teachers, partners, peers, and parents can do to us over the years. It’s happened to me more than once. It’s the reason I do not sing or dance in public or do watercolor at all.
For Christmas middle son gave me the book Syllabus by Lynda Barry; I gave him What It Is by the same author. Lynda sums us the hibernation of creativity like this:
“By the 6th grade I stopped doing ordinary things in front of people. It had been ordinary to sing, kids are singing all the time when they are little but then something happens. It’s not that we stop singing. I still sang. I was just alone when I did it, and I made sure I never did it accidentally – that thing we call bursting into song. I believe this happens to most of us. We are still singing, but secretly and all alone . . . My only feeling was embarrassment.” (Lynda Barry, What It Is)
My teen years were rife with such occurrences. I quit dancing after I unsuccessfully auditioned for Oklahoma! my freshman year in high school. Having been told years prior that I couldn’t sing, all I wanted was to be a corps dancer. I didn’t fit into the look they wanted for the show; my movements weren’t quite right. Suddenly, I was no longer a dancer.
Still, consider myself one of the lucky ones because for some reason, I always had words. Poetry was able to stay with me – perhaps because the writing of poetry can be intensely private. No need for public performance or audition to put pencil to paper. However, I was even published in the school literary magazine (despite the efforts of an adversary who was on the editorial board). Words stayed with me long after singing, dancing, and drawing had gone into hiding.
Over the years, the desire to develop broader creativity in my life was thwarted by rationed time, by unsupportive husbands, by self doubt, by watercolor teachers.
I think it’s time to end the rationing. It is immensely fun to read artistic exercises in Lynda Barry’s books and do them on my own. Or modify them for my purposes as part of my writing work.
Creativity is for everyone. A colleague of mine took a welding class; one of my friends is thinking of an improv class; another friend is founding poetic endeavors in our area; middle son is looking forward to baking more. As I write this, that same son is reading the community college continuing education offerings to me – culinary, yoga, arts, welding – it’s all there.
If you have no one to share with – send a picture of your creation to me. I’ll share it here for you. And remember, creativity comes in all forms and is for everyone. Embrace that.