One of the funnest things to do as a parent is to simply watch your kids. Over the course of every single day (and when I’m not trying to make sure they’re not about to break something or each other) I find myself watching how two of my sons play. One of my sons, in particular, can literally entertain himself for hours on end with no toys, just his imagination and the cast of characters he takes on depending on what part of the “play” he’s putting on for himself.
For instance, he’s a big fan of a Sonic vs. Mario Nintendo Switch game he has. So when he can’t play the Switch—I take it every Sunday evening and let the kids have it back on Fridays after their last class—he will play Sonic vs. Mario by himself all up and through the house. He’ll run down stairs as Mario and then chase himself back up the stairs as Sonic. He will have a full battle royale with himself complete with sound effects, plot and conclusion. My kids love Beyblades–a Japanese top-like battle toy–and they’ve taken to playing with their Beyblades without the thing that makes them so exciting, a ripper string that sets the Beyblade off spinning in hopes of “bursting” the other one. Except now, they burst the Beyblades without doing it in real life. And they’re on the same page; they play the same games with the same joy in the same way.
And don’t get them to telling stories because you literally don’t know where they’re going. My boys are 5- and 4-years-old (I also have a 12-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son) and I watch them make lemonade out of lemons every five minutes. The whole world is lemonade to them. I love their imagination and it highlights something for me...
...I miss my imagination.
I work in the creative arts. I write for a living and that often requires me to come up with some unique or interesting way to present information, hoping its in a way that hasn’t been done before by others (or by me). You see, I’m a writer not a biter for myself and others. I hope you see what I did there. But sometimes, I feel like I’ve run clean out of good ideas. Hell, half the time I don’t even have bad ideas. Every creative person knows what it feels like to force something. You need to come with something you so do, badly, in hopes that it helps unlock the good stuff that is clearly looking for an escape in your brain. Sometimes it requires a new means for creating. If you write all the time then maybe you need to, I don’t know, paint for a while, or craft or, I don’t know. Something. For me, the best way to get to that creativity is to take a walk or go be around people. It almost never fails; just a trip to Target typically gives me three of four new things to write about.
Meanwhile, I watch my kids create a whole, entire world in 5 minutes with dinosaurs and aliens and super heroes and it all makes sense to them and it ebbs and flows perfectly for them. It’s beautiful (and messy, but that’s another talk show) and I realize that if I asked my kids for something to write about they’d have an absolutely crazy, fun imaginative answer right there. It might be dinosaurs or firemen, but it would be a something.
I wonder at what point you start to lose creativity. I always say that the reason Damon and I were successful with Very Smart Brothas is because we had no idea what we were doing and thus had no idea what we couldn’t do. For the first year or so, Damon wrote all of his posts without a single capital letter. Why? Who knows...I never even asked. But it was imaginative and provocative and as far as I know, didn’t hinder our progress. I wrote about some of the most random things and didn’t think twice. My imagination was on fire. But I allowed that to happen because I had no expectations either. It was just fun to drop it low and spread it wide...my ideas that is. But I know there’s a version of my life where maybe I wouldn’t have leaned into my imagination and fun and inventive ways to say or do things.
I’ve talked to other people who don’t feel imaginative at all. They go about their daily lives, successfully, and manage a happy life, but innate creativity? That’s a harder ask. I’ve asked when they think they stopped using their imagination so much and they don’t know. Just one day, it isn’t part of the task at hand.
I hope my kids, all of them, maintain that sense of imagination and wonder. My daughter is heavy into magic right now, she loves the idea of the impossible. That’s a wonderful trait because it means she hasn’t given up on what she can’t see. I hope my boys stay that way. They inspire me to try. I miss my imagination but at least I have my kids to show me what’s possible.
Though, maybe, if I started fighting myself publicly folks would look at me crazy so I’ll just do it in my head.