My nine-year-old son is so much like me, it hurts. He’s sensitive and earnest; he dislikes conformity, even when it’s in his best interests; he can be literal-minded and pedantic; and when he’s anxious, he tends to adopt a “my way or the highway” mentality that’s the very epitome of unhelpful. He’s also curious, creative, intelligent, strong-willed, and has a social justice streak a mile wide.
There are pros and cons to this similarity. We understand each other without needing to put in any real effort, but, on the other hand, we drive each other nuts in a way that no one else in the world can. Because we’re so similar, I often find myself having to give him advice and guidance on situations that either I’ve faced in the past, or that I deal with every day. Thus, in the crucible of parenthood, I find myself learning at least as much as I’m teaching.
In fact, it’s my son that I have to thank for my new writing motto.
The Eternal Sunshine of the Creative Mind
If there’s one thread that seems to tie all creative people together, it’s that we’re interested in everything. A word, a phrase, an image, a scent… anything can lead our minds on a whirlwind journey of curiosity. That’s a wonderful thing — especially in the Age of Google, when answers are but a few key-strokes away. But it can also make focus and productivity a billionty times more difficult. Especially in the Age of Google.
My son’s mind works in the same way. We recently had a conversation that started with him asking a question about why some people measure in inches and we use centimetres, which veered into a brief history of the French Revolution, paused on the apocryphal tale of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake!”, took a side-route to the meaning and etymology of the word ‘apocryphal’, jumped to an overview of Les Miserables, and finished with a discussion about the difference between justice and law. At the end of it all, neither of us remembered if his original question had even been answered.
Come on, we’ve all been there.
But as cool as boundless curiosity is, it’s important to be able to tell your creative mind to take a breath. Just for a minute. Just long enough to actually get something finished.