I have been very creative lately. Baking Easter bread, making bird feeders, shaping monsters out of salt dough. Life with a two year old is a never-ending project -- usually a messy one.
With a toddler, you can't live life entirely as a consumer, reading and watching and eating and absorbing all that fancy shiny stuff the qualified people made. When there's a tiny person staring at you and asking to bake bread, or shoving a crayon in your hand and requesting a picture of an elephant, or curled up beside you at night asking you to tell her a story, it stops mattering whether you're an artist or a baker or a professional storyteller.
Let's face it: I'm nowhere near qualified. No one wants to buy my bread or my terrible elephant drawing or pay to listen to me tell stories (not yet, anyway). Still, I bake and draw and make up finger plays about caterpillars, mainly because I'll get yelled at if I don't.
It's exhausting and exhilarating. For a few moments here and there, I'm brought back to how I felt as a child, enjoying the act of creating something for the sole purpose of creating it -- not to earn money, or success, or even expertise. Knowing that I'll never be an artist, and playing with watercolours anyway? I'm so grateful she gives me the excuse, not that I should need one.
As adults, there is so little room for play. None of us should need an excuse to try something new, or spend an hour making a mediocre version of something we could buy at the store. It's thrilling. It's life affirming. And it's why I don't facilitate writing workshops promising professional success. It's not that I don't believe my workshops can improve participants' writing -- quite the opposite. But I want to create a safe space to explore writing in which, for a few hours a week at least, the outer trappings of accomplishment don't matter nearly as much as the flickering inner light of creation.
In her poem Blessing For A Writer, Pat Schneider writes, "May you study your craft as you would study/ a new friend or a long time, much loved lover." To her, creation is not an occupation. It's a love affair.
My daughter likes pouring water into flour. She likes kneading dough with her chubby fingers. She likes pushing buttons and painting pictures and making snowmen out of paper circles. I only hope to someday match her joy at scratching pen across page.