What Kids Can Teach Us

[I am aware that I write about kids like most of the time but, honestly, there is just so much to read and learn from them (or who we once were) that we should not forget as adults as we grow older.]

Austin Kleon (author of Steal Like An Artist) brings his kid to a museum because, ” [kids] will make you rethink what’s interesting and what’s art. (After all, what are cars but fast, colorful, kinetic sculptures?) This, of course, should be the point of museums: to make us look closer at our everyday life as a source of art and wonder.” Also, if you don’t have a kid, he advises you to borrow one. “Borrow a kid. Spend some time trying to see through their eyes. You will discover new things.

Corita Kent and Jan Steward wrote in the book, Learning By Heart, “For so many years we have been learning to judge and dismiss — I know what that thing is — I’ve seen it a hundred times — and we’ve lost the complex realities, laws, and details that surround us. Try looking the way the child looks—as if always for the first time—and you will, I promise, feel wider awake.”

John Baldessari noted, “I learned so much about art from watching a kid draw. I taught at the grade-school level. Kids don’t call it art when they’re throwing things around, drawing—they’re just doing stuff.”

I interviewed a schoolmate about her art teaching experience and she mentioned that the best students she had are kids. Because, she noticed, kids do not complain. They just simply do the work.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about the musician Tom Waits in her book, Big Magic, “Waits had once been the opposite of that as a creator. He told me that he’d struggled deeply with his creativity in his youth because—like many serious young men—he wanted to be regarded as important, meaningful, heavy. He wanted his work to be better than other people’s work. He wanted to be complex and intense. There was anguish, there was torment, there was drinking, there were dark nights of the soul…

But through watching his children create so freely, Waits had an epiphany: It wasn’t actually that big a deal. He told me, “I realized that, as a songwriter, the only thing I really do is make jewelry for the inside of other people’s minds.” Music is nothing more than decoration for the imagination. That’s all it is. That realization, Waits said, seemed to open things up for him. Songwriting became less painful after that.”

Earlier in the book, Gilbert wrote, “Over the years, Tom Waits finally found his sense of permission to deal with his creativity more lightly—without so much drama, without so much fear. A lot of this lightness, Waits said, came from watching his children grow up and seeing their total freedom of creative expression. He noticed that his children felt fully entitled to make up songs all the time, and when they were done with them, they would toss them out “like little origami things, or paper airplanes.” Then they would sing the next song that came through the channel. They never seemed to worry that the flow of ideas would dry up. They never stressed about their creativity, and they never competed against themselves; they merely lived within their inspiration, comfortably and unquestioningly.

And my main point here is to relax. I meant this for myself and to anyone struggling and stressing about creating. There is this belief going on that “You have to suffer greatly in order to create something great.” (A lot of people concluded this after observing that a lot of whom we consider great artists suffered a lot while creating their masterpieces.) But like the epiphany of Tom Waits, creating doesn’t have to be so serious and dramatic that you have to compromise your physical, spiritual, and mental health.

When I was around 14, I wanted to write a novel. However, I get stressed a lot that I can’t find the perfect idea, the perfect plot, that it would not be popular anyways, and that I’m not experienced enough. But if I could talk it out to my younger self, I would say, just write. Yes, at first, it would not be easy. But the perfect plot will not come, just write what you can write. (Somehow, I am just grateful that I went through this kind of experience because of that, I am able to grow, learn, and improve myself or better yet, learned to re-connect with the kid inside me.)

Similar to when we were kids, we just draw and we just write. Want to write? We just write. Want to draw? We just draw. And writing or drawing something, we just set it aside and eventually, our parents are gonna throw it. Then, off we go to another thing that we want to write or draw. We just create so easily when we were young and somewhere along the way, we restrict ourselves. I made it hard for myself to just create something by rejecting the idea as soon as it was born and telling myself, “Its not worth it anyway.”

But that is not the point. The point is to create. The point is to do what keeps you alive and not rejecting yourself of an adventure. Just creating for the sake of doing just like when we were a kid. Just like in the book The Little Prince, we must not forget how we were as kids or else we might be very, very odd grownups.

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Claire Hernandez

I'm Claire, a college student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I write about my journey, growth, and how design influences the behaviour of the users. Moreover, I am fascinated about the psychology of space, hence you can see me citing research studies in my posts. Email: hernandezanaclaire@gmail.com

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