When I was a child, I believed childish things. I’m paraphrasing this idea (Corinthians 13:11), but generally, the thought is that we are better as adults than we were as children. Is that true for the creative? I’m not sure it is for me. I was not a creative child. I was active. I played. I rode my bike, I swam, I played soccer, baseball, and football with gusto.
I caught live things, salamanders, frogs, snakes, anything I could get my hands on. My childish lies to get me out of trouble were creative so the spark of creativity may have been there. Video games were just moving from the arcade to the house, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I watched R-rated movies when I could because they were funnier than the PG movies I was allowed to watch.
I had friends. They didn’t want anything from me, except to have fun. They joined me in play, we got in trouble together. No one knows me today as well as my friends did when I was in the 5th grade.
Trying to be creative at 50 years old, I’m told, quite a bit, that I should be trying to get back my un-jaded childhood attitude to help with my creativity. There’s only one problem with that. I was not a creative child. Hell, I don’t think of myself as a creative adult, and that’s part of the problem… Henry Ford – “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” Yet for the last five years (since 2018), I have created almost every morning. I have 1438 ideas in the pipe for my mind to choose from.
But I’m not a child anymore
But this is not my childhood, nor my childish mind. My childish mind loved to play. That’s all. I didn’t enjoy learning when I was young. That didn’t happen until I was in my early 20s and got recruited into the English program at CSUF. I wish I could remember that professor’s name. I can see him, with his crazy white hair, limp and cane telling me that if I really wanted to learn to write, I’d take his summer American Literature class. I did and never turned back. My only regret was I took that class with him, and not the professor who would become my favorite.
It took me more than 20 years to become interested in a subject that wasn’t related to video games or computers.
Now, I wish I could spend every day learning. I would love to spend each day diving more deeply into thought, into creativity. Only, I have financial needs that bring me back to reality. I’m not sure where I go from here to get to my ideal state of being. I either make a shitload of money, retire and then be creative or I try to balance my side-gig, as it’s called, of writing for the rest of my career.
At my core, I still lack the mind for intellectual pursuits. I’m still that 8-year-old who prefers fun over all things, I just know it’s not possible to play all the time all day long anymore. My mom would love to hear me finally admit that.
The temptation is always just under the surface.
A few years back, when my job was on cruise control, I took a break and started to play World of Warcraft. I went down that rabbit hole for many months, playing more than working. My inner child is never that far away, you see? Just the other day, my son asked about a video game that’s coming out, Far Cry 5, a game that I enjoyed when it was version 2. He told me that this one has a multi-player mode, implying that he would play with me again.
We used to play together as he was growing up. It’s one of the father-son things we did together that I will always cherish and miss. I’ve been lamenting him turning 24 recently and us not spending the time together we used to because he has a life outside the home now. But it wouldn’t take much for me to slide back down into the video game trap, and be a consumer again, especially if he’s going to play with me and try to recapture that which we had when he was younger, much like I tried to do with my father when I was my son’s age.
The struggle is real – and continual
It’s unfair. I want to move towards a creative lifestyle, and everything in my daily life tries to pull me back to being a consumer. I’ve given up watching movies and TV, video games, and Facebook. I’ve even stopped reading the daily news feeds that I had already limited to The Skimm and LinkedIn as they are less biased than other sources. And my creative mind has been able to keep up for the most part, but I’m starting to feel isolated. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing in today’s world. It protects my sensitive side from seeing the world as it has become. My creative side has exposed the emotional and sensitive nature that I’ve kept cocooned beneath several layers of cynicism for a long time.
Just like I’m trying to get back to a child-like view, I’ve been making sure I’m feeding my mind with appropriate content. I’ve been reading mythology to stimulate my intellect. I’ve never read it before, and it’s fascinating. I’ve been reading the Mankell Wallander books, which I fell in love with watching Kenneth Branagh perform them. I love just about anything he’s in, which harkens back to my college days when I was first introduced to Branagh by my favorite professor in a Shakespeare class. I skipped work the day Branagh’s Hamlet came out, and my mom and I went to the old Port Theater in Corona Del Mar (NOT the new one) to watch the three-hour extravaganza. It was a crowning moment for my psyche.
How do I pull this all together? I’m looking back at this writing and I realize there’s a lot in my head at the moment, and I didn’t even mention that I re-engaged with my poetic endeavors yesterday after stumbling across one of my poems that I actually enjoyed. Most of my poetry is from my late teens and early 20s when I was in a continuous tumultuous romantic state. So my poems reflect that of a love-torn teen.
Not fun reading for a 50-year-old married man. But poetry appeals to me as an art form. I have had a book on my shelves for a few months from Stephen Fry about poetry. He writes poetry, apparently, and he attempts to teach how in this book, but in a much more British and structured way than I’ve seen taught before. I’m going down that path, too.
So the past five years have been a journey into my soul. The only problem with that is the lingering fear that my soul is that of a fifth-grader who just wants to play all day. I want the soul of an artist, a scholar, a renaissance man. And I feel that time is running out. I have 20 years left if I’m able to keep my body and mind in good working shape, something that can be out of your control somewhat. My family lives into their 80s and longer so I may have more than that left on Earth, but the next 20, and even the next 10 will really be where I spend my time moving towards scholarly pursuits rather than playtime.
It’s odd because I’m torn. I can make good money and have fun, I know that. I’ve done it.
But then here I am, wanting something, missing something in life. It’s back to that idea of being a consumer. But who is going to care at the end of 20 years if I was a consumer or a producer? Not a single person, as long as I can provide for my family. And I sure won’t care because at the end of the journey is a blank slate and an endpoint. I won’t care how I spent my life when I’m dead. And even if my son has kids, being a grandparent will be more like being a fifth-grader who likes fun than a scholar.
Although, in truth, those moments will be few and far between because one knows that life will get in the way, especially for my son as he builds his own life with a wife and kids. He doesn’t have time for me now, how will he have time for me then? So my pursuits are really pursuits to keep my active mind from boredom. It’s why I’m such a great consumer. I strive for content – and good content, not the poorly written hack stuff. I need the good stuff. I need the X.O. content, the single-barrel sitcom, the 12-year-old aged story. That’s what I crave.
So even in my consumerism, I need a challenge. I think that’s what has ultimately driven me to be a producer. If I have to tolerate crappy content, it might as well be my own work.
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2 thoughts on “When I Was a Child, I Created Childish Things”
Sounds like you’re doing all the right things to see where you fit in. Possibly you could grab the best of both worlds? As far as content, I say write what you enjoy reading, be that for adults or for that 5th grade kid who still lives within you!
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Thanks, Becky – unfortunately, I read a lot of classics now. But you are right, I’m really trying to figure out what I enjoy doing most.
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