Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Regain the wonder

Five days a week, I work in a library shelving books. It is the perfect job for observing people's behavior. One constant source of entertainment is the kids.

Most of them are naturally fearless and curious and ready to try anything. I've plucked two-year-olds from the upper shelves where they have climbed while their parents' backs were turned. They delve without hesitation into fantasy and think nothing extraordinary about dogs talking and cats wearing hats. They soak up new experiences like sponges and are constantly hungry to learn and do and try.

Nothing is beyond their realm of possibility. The books written for children draw upon that "what if" and "it could happen" and "why not" way of thinking.

When did we outgrow the wonder of this world? When did we lose that sense of adventure, that curiosity about everything around us? When did we learn to resist change rather than embrace it?

Steven Pressfield wrote in his book The War of Art that "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."

For me as a writer, one of the most difficult aspects of my work is to write. The physical act of putting butt in the seat, hands on the keyboard and mind to the task. Instead I will surf the Internet, answer emails, do the laundry....but I resist doing what will give me the most pleasure and yes, the most pain.

I have a couple of successful ways to overcome that resistance -- at least toward writing.

1. Give myself permission to write whatever I want for 20 minutes. Timed writings. I put my fingers on the keys, close my eyes and just start typing whatever comes into my head. I don't stop typing for that time period. I don't correct, I don't edit, I don't censor. Its freedom and ultimately freeing. And the best part, many times I have the nugget for an article or an essay hidden among the jibberish. I'm always amazed at where free thought takes me.

2. When all else fails and resistance has me by the throat. I turn to the children's department at the library and read. I usually begin with Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin. A Dr. Seuss book frees my fearful spirit, as does anything by Shel Silverstein.

Recently while assisting the librarian with children's story time, she read my new favorite: Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields. Anyone who can rhyme those multi-syllabic names and describe those mighty lizard beasts dancing has my respect. And gratitude.

Because once I've forgotten about responsibilities and reality and immersed myself in the world of cows that type and dinosaurs that dance -- there's nothing stopping my creative.

Isaac Newton may have been right about "an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by another force." But I bet he didn't think of kid's literature as a 'force' to start the creativity ball rolling.

Next time you resist doing what you know you really need to do, want to do -- check out a kid's book. It is liberating.

Oh, and while you're at the library -- thank a librarian. They love it.

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