Feb. 12, 2018 by Marni Levitt
As an artist I know how essential it is to express myself creatively. It is who I am, what I need to do. It is like breathing and drinking and eating and sleeping and exercising. I can’t not do it. If I don’t express myself creatively in some way (could be anything: writing songs, singing, writing a poem, doing a craft, painting, cooking etc…), then the creative energy gets ‘stuck’ inside me and can turn into a sense of nervousness or anxiety, or it can turn into negative energy or depressed energy that bogs and slows me down. When I am ‘in the flow’, creating a work of art, or writing an idea, a story or a song, or when I am creating a painting, it is almost like time disappears and I am in a vortex of being completely absorbed in what I am doing. There is a focus, there is a sense of joy and purpose. A similar feeling can come from physical activity like dancing or swimming or walking (the energy flows through me, rather than being stuck).
Of Course, there are parts of the creative process that can be (very) frustrating when I am stuck and don’t know what to do next – or when the inspiration seems to have left me for awhile – but I accept those parts of the process as incubation…letting the ideas rest until they are ready to come to life again. It is a mysterious process and involves being open to adventure.
Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. I believe creativity is inherent to being human. We are born with a deep, intuitive understanding of how everything is connected and everything is whole. This kind of understanding is what gives rise to the creative process…being in a connected, flowing state, understanding both the parts of a thing, and the whole picture. Our modern adult world can be very analytical, logical, organized – at times the opposite of that connected, intuitive sense we had as children. I believe we are all born with creative gifts of some sort (not all in fine arts necessarily), but we all need to express ourselves in some way. There are gifts inside of all of us, just waiting to be brought out in the right circumstances.
Our modern education system is built on a more mechanical understanding of the human being: there is knowledge that kids don’t have inside of them, that they need to be given at school by teachers in a standardized, systematized way – in a place where time and space are can also be quite regimented. From my years of teaching in public schools, I know they can sometimes feel like factories. Quite mechanical. But that is starting to change. The rise in popularity of inquiry-based learning (learning rooted in the curiosity of the child), as well as mindfulness in education (paying attention to what is happening on the inside of the child, just as much as what is on the outside) is evidence of this shift.
I believe humans have everything inside of them when they are born, and it merely needs to be drawn out. I agree with Picasso. Every child is an artist; every child has a creative force inside of them that needs to be expressed. Children exist in the ever-present, present moment and feel connected up with all of life. Just like me, they need to express themselves creatively, and they need physical activity to keep it all flowing. When they aren’t able to do that, the creative energy can get stuck, frustrated, unexpressed. Then, the energy can turn into something else: anxiety, upset, lethargy, sadness, etc…
These days, in our modern life, there are many reasons and factors that can contribute to children not having a chance to express that creativity… from budget cuts to arts and sports programs to increased academic demands to increased pressure on schools and teachers to deliver results on standardized academic tests, to increased time pressures on all the adults around them, from teachers to parents alike.
I think almost any parent or teacher can share the importance of tuning into the energy of kids. Letting them play outside when they are ‘bouncing off the walls’, playing a game when needed, taking rests when they feel tired, listening to their words when they have something to say. This is all the expression of energy, and the harnessing of energy. In my years of teaching in many different contexts, I have observed time and time again, how essential it is for kids to express their creative energy in particular. I have seen highly creative kids experiencing anxiety when they can’t express fully because of the environment they are in. I have felt the calm and peace in the air when I let a whole class spend more time on an art project (rather than math problems for example), and I have made use of the power of a little bit of stretching, physical activity, breathing and singing to galvanize the energy of a group of kids.
I feel that humans are born with so much energy, creativity and potential. I believe there are so many gifts in there just waiting to come out, in fact, bursting! There is an abundance inside of children, inside of humans, which actually, is limitless. The creativity just needs support, and space to be expressed.
What is your experience?