My seven-year-old son loves to ask profound questions while I’m tucking him in at night. A few nights ago, he asked me to tell him about something cool I have invented in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I ended up saying something along the lines of “I invent ways of becoming more organized at home, and I invent solutions to my client’s problems at work.” He paused for a second then he said “No, I mean a REAL invention. What is something you have ACTUALLY invented?”
My mind went way back to elementary school where I was asked to invent something with materials I already had at home. Using a dance leotard from my latest dance recital, I decided to invent a “Stretch-a-book-bag”, which would allow me to carry an unlimited number of books all at once. I told him about this strange book-carrying invention from grade school, along with a few other creations that came to mind including some DSL photography images and pottery I created in high school.
I left my son’s room that night wondering why I couldn’t think of any recent creations or inventions. Did my creativity stop after high school? If so, why? And why does it seem kids are so much more creative than adults?
Not long after pondering all of these questions I listened to episode #37 of the podcast “We Can Do Hard Things” with Glennon Doyle. One of Glennon’s cohosts, Amanda Doyle, described how her life has been so centered on getting things done that she has no time or space for being creative or for doing things that fulfill her.
She explained how this realization came after she hit a low point in her life when she felt no joy. Even during times when she should be having fun like holidays or get-togethers with friends, she felt like she was doing things she should do rather than things she wanted to do.
Glennon, Amanda, and their co-host Abby Wambach all agreed that the definition of creation is to make something out of nothing. So, to be creative, you need to start trying to spend more time doing nothing. Amanda said she knew that making time for empty space in her life would be difficult, but she slowly started saying no when she felt the urge to fill up her day with things she thought she should do.
This podcast really resonated with me, especially since I’m currently trying to plan a ladies’ weekend away with some of my closest friends, and it is very apparent that all of us don’t have any free time. I would really like to start building empty spaces in my life. I know this will be a tall order, especially during the holiday season when we all have presents to buy and social events to attend.
My plan is to start small. This morning, after my kids got on the school bus and my husband left for work, I spent 10 minutes sitting in my backyard doing nothing other than watching the birds fly around. I wish I could have enjoyed this peaceful time for a little longer, but I had several emails to write before taking my car across town to be serviced.
Yes, it will take time and discipline to slow down and nurture my creative desires. Yes, it may even mean I need to say no to someone or to something I want to do. I don’t know what I will create, but I think spending time just thinking about my joys from the past and possibly questions about the future is a great place to start.
My son recently picked up a book about Albert Einstein by Sarah Albee. We learned that as a kid Einstein spent a lot of time daydreaming. When he grew up, he kept asking questions because he never stopped being curious about the world. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he said.
Hopefully, I can take Einstein’s advice and spend more time using my imagination. I do not know where these thoughts will take me, or what I will be capable of creating, but maybe one day I’ll be able to tell my son that I have invented something really cool.