Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Creativity and Conformity

"Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried." — Frank Tyger

My daughter loves to draw. She draws the greatest pictures, creations from her imagination. I love to see what her brain thinks up.

Recently, she's asked for help to make her drawings more realistic. She's on a horse kick, so we went to Barnes and Noble and found her a "How to Draw Horses" book. She sat down with that book for hours. I asked to see what she had drawn, and she showed me crumpled up balls and asked for more blank paper.

She was absolutely frustrated because she couldn't draw as well as the pictures in the book. She asked me to draw one. I did, but that was a mistake because -- well, I'd been through my own horse fanaticism and had learned to draw horses, so mine looked pretty good.

I went through a litany of reasons why she shouldn't feel bad, why she should be thrilled with her output: she's only seven; she's only been trying to draw from that book for a little while, etc.

I asked her to draw a picture of the dog, and she tried and finally threw a wad a paper at me, angry because nothing she drew looked like a photograph of Bailey. I told her that if I'd wanted a photo, I'd have taken one. I wanted her perception of Bailey.

Nothing worked.

My daughter doesn't draw anymore. Getting that "How To" book killed her creativity.

Watching how this affected her, it made me think of how trying to write "correctly" can be a creativity killer.

I know, I know, we're supposed to "shut off the internal editor" for the first draft. Yeah? Where's the "off" button, because I can't seem to find it. I'll be typing along and *WHAM!* I'll hit the wall of passive voice or *WHAM!* there's the speed bump of telling not showing.

I've lost much of the love of writing because I've tried to make a business of it. Sitting down with my stories is more of a chore that a joy. I worry so much about motivation and no info-dumps and can't head hop and... and... and...

I want to go back to my childlike love of the written word. Writing as a business has even taken away much of my joy in reading because I analyze everything instead of diving into the story.

I don't have a good resolution for this. I do know that today at the library while my daughter plays during "game time" at the last day of Summer Story Hour I'm going to write, but not on my WIPs. One of my writing groups is having a "prompt marathon" and I'm jumping in. I'm hoping it will help me write for the joy of it instead of the work of it.

Am I alone in this? How do you feel?


Judy said...

Your experience with your DD is such a great lesson for all of us. I was recently reading and came across an interesting quote. Patricia Highsmith, author of Strangers on a Train, once said, "The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself." So, that's what I've been doing (and why I've not been posting a lot). I'm working on Fiona and trying to please myself with the story. And, to try to thward my "inner critic," I do NOT go back and read what I've written... just enough to see where I left off and sometimes not even then. If another scene comes to me, I write that instead. One day I'll go back and reread it, but only when the story itself is told.

Just my two cents' worth.

Ceri said...

I could've written this blog entry! It sounds so much like my daughter and I. In fact she just gave me a drawing of my old horse. And she gets very frustrated that she can't draw as well as she wants. I tell her it takes lots of practice and that she should never give up. I also draw horses fairly well (well, horse heads not bodies for some reason).

I hope your daughter doesn't give up. I love the drawings you post.

kcpaaio-killing chipmunks protects ants acting insanely open

Charity said...

Obviously you don’t want to push your daughter, but keep encouraging her. Andrew would get frustrated with how-to books and even art class, cuz he wants to do his own thing. But the right kind of technique instruction at the right time can be marvelous.

Last spring, he was selected to go to a “creativity festival” at the University of Minnesota and took a cartooning workshop. I was amazed at how much he improved in one session. Of course, the material (like the instructor, I’m guessing) was goofy and silly and highly appealing.

Keep at it, both of you. You're both lovely and talented and have a lot to offer.

Charity said...

I hijacked a bit of your post for my blog today. Hope that's okay.

MaryF said...

I do know exactly what you mean, I get locked up after listening to workshops at National, knowing I'm not doing it "right" and stressing out about it. Or after I get revisions, and it's NOT for fun anymore.

Good luck to you and your dd in finding the joy again.