Thursday, November 20, 2008

Think Not of the Mess

I once read about a mother who so desired to inspire creativity in her daughter that she went to great lengths to allow her to implement original ideas--she even helped her plant a carpet of grass in her bedroom. I'm not kidding. The girl longed to feel grass under her feet each morning when she got out of bed. So her mother helped her spread out a large, heavy tarp, cover it with topsoil and plant grass.

I told my mother about this. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," she said. "How did they water the grass? How did they scoop the mud out when the girl was tired of standing on grass in the morning? Think of the mess."

My sister agreed. "Ugh. What a mess. Why didn't they just pull a cot out onto the lawn?"

Me? I admire the grass planting mother/daughter duo. Not that I want inches of mud in my house. I don't. But I admire their can-do spirit. I admire that they pushed boundaries (and probably, beds) and ignored messes to pursue creativity.

When I was a girl, I loved to pop popcorn. (Still do.) I desperately wanted to pop corn--just once-- without the lid on the pan so I could watch the hard popcorn kernels ping into white fluffy blossoms. I thought the transformation must be an amazing creative moment. I told my mother that when I had my own house I was going to pop popcorn without the lid on the pan so I could watch. "No you won't," she said. "Think of the mess."

She was right. These days, I think of the mess. I keep the lid on when the popcorn's popping.

But it makes me wonder: to what degree do I stifle creativity because I think of the mess?

Practicing creativity requires a tolerance of messes. This week, when it comes to a choice between a creative act and a mess, just once--I'm not going to think of the mess. I'm going to tolerate the mess and pursue the creative act. I'll let you know how I do.