I love the way children make you look at the world in different ways. This weekend, my husband and I were asked to babysit his nieces at short notice (are they my nieces too now that we’re married..? I am still not sure how it all works….) and although tired after my first full week back at work, I was looking forward to seeing them. Also, if I’m honest, I had planned to do some writing that day and as I was still lacking motivation, I was secretly pleased to have a valid reason not to.
So, on the way home, I picked up a paddling pool and some bubbles, and when the girls arrived we had a few hours of fun in the garden, followed by story time (I was hoping this would make them sleepy). This was when I rediscovered my passion for poetry. I read the girls one of Roald Dahl’s revolting rhymes, having as much fun as they did, as, through their giggles and squeals of delight, I re-lived the first time I had heard when Little Red Riding Hood ‘…whips a pistol from her knickers.’ Their excitement was contagious, and ‘story-time’ quickly turned into ‘poetry hour,’ as the girls demanded to hear more poems, and asked whether I had written anything for children (I have. They liked it).
After this, they had planned to draw pictures about the stories we’d read, but Olivia, the eldest (8yrs) looked at me thoughtfully. ‘I might write a poem,’ she said. I told her I would love to read anything she wrote but still she sat quietly, a frown forming on her face. ‘Hey, what’s going on up here?’ I asked, gently touching her frown. ‘Well, I have an idea, but it doesn’t make sense and it’s a bit silly so I don’t think it will work.’ Without even thinking, I told her that there are no rules when it comes to poetry, and she should go ahead and write whatever she was thinking of. I showed her a couple of nonsense poems, just to prove my point. She then happily sat down and wrote a funny nonsense poem, ‘Rub ‘a’ Dub,’ about three men in a tub (naturally), eating grubs and turning into mugs. You can see her finished work below.
While she was busily writing and illustrating her poetic efforts, it dawned on me that the very question she had asked me, goes on in my head all the time: ‘I have an idea but… It won’t work/it doesn’t make sense/you’re not supposed to…’ Where did I learn all these rules that I so easily dismissed when trying to nuture a child’s creativity? Who did all these ‘shoulds’ come from..? And do I want to continue to hold myself back, or do I want to keep moving? These thoughts flashed by as I settled the girls in front of a movie and they gradually fell asleep.
The next morning I wrote two poems on my phone’s memo function before I even got out of bed. Simply changing my perspective had released the creativity I had been struggling to find, and I was eager to get to my laptop and start writing.
So, dear Readers – is it just me, or do you also find that this kind of unhelpful self-talk can hold you back? If so, how? And whose perspective could you ‘try on’ to release yourself from the ‘shoulds’ in your creative life?