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November 15, 2017

Home is where the creativity is

Sam Anderson/Collegian

Everyone says that one of the best qualities in children is their creativity, and one of the worst faults of adults is their loss of it. Picasso is famous for attributing his genius to a return to child-like creativity and is lauded worldwide for it. So, what makes kids so creative, what makes them lose it and why does it matter anyway?

In response to the first question, one answer is borne out of a common belief that kids have nothing to worry about – at least compared to adults. They have no responsibilities and therefore more brainpower and free time can be spent on indulging their imagination. Kids can be creative in ways that adults simply don’t have time for.

But while kids may have no “real” things to worry about, anyone who has been around a child knows that that doesn’t stop them from worrying. Kids cry about everything and if we give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re not just being dramatic, we can assume they are crying because they are truly upset and worried. The point is that pain, worry and all stressful feelings are relative and children, like adults, spend much of their precious brainpower and energy on feeling them.

So if it’s not the carefreeness of childhood that makes kids so uninhibited creatively, what is it? I think it’s the fact that they’re always at home. I mean this literally, because the discomfort of strange places that adults feel on a daily basis, from stiff-backed desk chairs to buses full of strangers, is unknown to most children. This also applies emotionally because kids are never alone. They get to spend their whole day at home or school, always surrounded by caregivers, friends and soft things to sit on. More than we do with adults, we try to make sure kids are always somewhere familiar, comfortable and safe.

This sense of security is exactly what I think gives kids the freedom to be creative, uninhibited, imaginative and all the other things adults feel they can’t be. Creativity is about risk-taking and no one, adult or child, is likely to take a risk unless they believe there will be safety and support on the other end. “Home” is the place where you are sure this safety and support exists for you. It’s familiar, comfortable and low-stakes.

Now I put home in quotation marks because the notion of home is a complicated one and for my purposes is non-physical. Growing up is about leaving home and hopefully making new homes in new places. It is undeniable, especially when in college, that all of these second homes seem transient – not only do we move rooms every September, but our entire time here has an expiration date on it. It is up to us then, if we truly want to tap into the confidence and creativity that is so conducive to success in so many areas of life, to create a home for ourselves, no matter where we are.

I suggest a little introspection – find out what makes you feel most comfortable, relaxed, safe and loved, and use that to create a home around you. This can and should be manifested physically in some ways. If warm lights make you feel safe, get some for your room. If reminding yourself of your friends who are far away makes you feel loved, make them the background on your phone. Create a place around you that gives you the feeling of being at home, not only because it will make you feel good, but because it will allow you to be creative and confident and subsequently more successful in what you do – wherever you are.

At a time when the displacement of so many people is so public and so tragic, it is perhaps nothing short of our duty to take advantage of our homes and optimize them to optimize ourselves, no matter where we are.

Becky Wandel is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at rwandel@umass.edu.

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