Creative timing

When I was about 10 or 12, my mom took a drawing class with a local artist. It was based on the classic approach in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I remember being awed by the sudden magic of her ability to capture life in her sketch book.  I particularly remember sketches of her hands and one of my brother Chris that was so true to his two-year-old self (do you still have that one, Mom?). I was pretty enchanted by this new, artist version of my mom and by the idea that you could just capture the world on the surface of a paper. 

Lately my hands have ached to DO SOMETHING, create things. I love writing but it's so internal and thinky. I find myself wanting to create something outside of my head, with my hands, bypassing words. I remembered my mom's Edwards text and went looking for it one day last week before I picked up Sam from school. (Plus a Scandinavian embroidery book for good measure because the accruing of the STUFF of a project is the part where I tend to excel.)

Sam has an after-school math class on Fridays so I took the book, pencils, and a sketchbook with me while I waited the 90 minutes in the car. Scanning through a couple of the chapters, I had a bit of an epiphany reading what she had to say about seeing differently so, as she suggests, I gave my first self-portrait a try, using the visor mirror for reference, aware that to passersby I looked like a mirror-gazing narcissist. Here's to being vulnerable and sharing--

self portrait 15 Nov 13.jpg

This is totally out of my comfort zone and I'll be the first to say I've got a long long way to go--the prickly art critic/doubter on my shoulder has pointed out this is just me-ish and maybe an anime version at that with the wide-eyed zombie stare--but the magic of making lines suddenly take life?  Wow, what a rush. I'm hooked and Betty has officially rocked my world. (If you've ever played Draw Something with me, you know this is a big leap!)  Ahoy! I'm drawing! I draw! I'm a draw-er! Is this a breakthrough, that I'm a draw-er? I draw now! (Hurry, name that movie before clicking the link.)

In mentioning this to several friends I've been amazed how many people remembered their moms/dads/grandparents taking up drawing at around this same stage with the same book. Maybe it's a life timing thing. If I think about it, my grandfather started building the family cabin by hand in around this time in his life, as well as learning woodcarving, iron work, and stained glass. My aunt started watercolor painting, another one took up oil painting. It's like it's hardwired in our human development to branch out creatively at this stage. (Hello, Erikson's generativity/stagnation stage. Nice to see you again.) Or maybe it's just a time in life when we finally have a tiny sliver of extra time available to devote to new interests?

What about you? Have you started a new creative endeavor or are you itching to learn something new? Where do you channel your creative leanings? 

[Edited to add: This will be a lighter posting week while we all run around doing Thanksgivingy things. We'll see you here on MWF. Have a great week!]

A few good gems

Hello, friends. Happy end of August and gateway to the weekend. Let the wild rumpus start! 

Speaking of wild rumpus, can you imagine receiving one of these Maurice Sendak letters?!

Speaking of wild rumpus, can you imagine receiving one of these Maurice Sendak letters?!

I returned back home to Australia from the States last Saturday and it's taken until today not to feel completely jetlagged by 8 p.m. every day, nodding and drowsy through dinner and everything afterwards. I've been exactly like a two-year-old who's just given up her afternoon naps--not to be trusted to sit still and not fall asleep at random places and moments. But, in honor of Friday night, I think I'm going to live dangerously and stay up until 10 tonight to catch up on some shows with G. Have you seen the new (to me) BBC series Broadchurch? Or PBS's Silk? (I'm always sucker for a good British detective/legal series.) What's brewing for your weekend?

 . . .

A few links and good reads I hope you'll enjoy:

- I love this innovative alarm clock from Yanko Design for couples who wake up at different times. Or if you really hate that loud alarm blare. Brilliant! Count me in.

- A terrific longread about a family secret uncovered

Very good advice from Bill Watterson's 1990 commencement speech at Kenyon, recently illustrated in the comic book style of Calvin and Hobbes in a Watterson tribute by Gavin Aung Than. 

- A stunning description of how poverty taxes the brain

- Remembering summer twilights with cousins on the farm--a lyrical tribute to the quality of summers past and the dwindling open spaces of childhood.

- Finally, please enjoy this delightful clip (part of the Atlantic's Creative Breakthroughs series) from Annie Lennox, featuring her take on creativity, finding your own path, locking out your inner critic, and being many things all at once.

See you back here on Monday! In September, no less! 

Erikson, epiphanies, and me

Taking It All In by Karen Offutt

Taking It All In by Karen Offutt

I was making the bed today when I started thinking about Erik Erikson. I'm not sure what it was about the mundane act of fluffing wrinkled pillows and tucking sheets that made my thoughts alight on him in particular but there he was, in my mind on a Monday morning. 

Maybe it was because it is Memorial Day back in the US. I thought of the many family members making their pilgrimages, with flowers in their arms and memories in their hearts, to stone tablets marking the lives and legacies of loved ones.  

Erikson, bless his theory-making heart, is one of my top-three developmental psychology gurus. He thought about development as a lifelong proposition, with stages progressing fully into old age. Each stage has a conflict that influences biological, social, and individual psychological development. The successful resolution of each conflict--which must be done before moving on to the next stage--leads to a resulting virtue. Each builds on the one before it. Just as a quick runthrough (that will thoroughly cheat his theory of its deserved explanation), the stages look like this:

  • Birth-1 year: Trust vs. mistrust. Leads to hope.
  • 2-3 years: Autonomy vs. shame & doubt. Leads to will.
  • 3-5 years: Intiative vs. guilt. Leads to purpose.
  • 6-12 years: Industry vs. inferiority. Leads to competence.
  • 13-18 years: Identity vs. role confusion. Leads to fidelity.
  • 18-40 years: Intimacy vs. isolation. Leads to love (and partner/family formation).
  • 40-65 years: Generativity vs. stagnation. Leads to care (giving back)
  • 65 years and older: Ego integrity vs. despair. Leads to wisdom.

I think I might be the poster child for that seventh stage right now! (Never mind how gut-dropping is it that I am now in the seventh of eight life stages! Zoinks. Oh, and we will tackle his teen identity stage another day, I promise.)  I think "generativity" could also be replaced with "creativity." If you are anywhere near that age range, maybe you can relate, too? 

This stage, says Erikson, is all about a new, dawning awareness and need to make an impact in the world, to understand the bigger picture, and use our own voices.  It's all about creating a community, a legacy beyond stone memorials, and giving back. It's the pull to keep learning and not stagnate.  It's why I returned to grad school, I think, and why I leapt into this blog project. It's why, in the middle of a rather scary series of mammograms a couple of years ago (it turned out fine, whew) I thought "but I haven't written my book yet." Oh, Erik. Spot on, sir.

This clip of an interview with the always inspiring Maira Kalman goes along with this sentiment/stage perfectly (found via Brain Pickings):

"It's love and it's work. What else could there possibly be?...What is the most wonderful thing I could be doing and who are the most wonderful people I could be with?"

How does your life compare with Erikson's stages? Are you aware of the drive for generativity/creativity? What kinds of things are you planning for the life-after-children years? Are they the same or different from what you're doing now?