You have less control over your environment and the environment in which your children grow than you think. The variables are infinite. For two weeks I’m writing about Creativity’s Terrain and the variables you can control. Yesterday I wrote about Intellectual Discomfort.
Evenings our family often gathers in what we call the Music room, to read. A well-loved baby grand piano dominates the decor, but hundreds of books spill out of stuffed shelves, almost begging to be handled. My 2 yr. old takes heed. She picks books out as if she were choosing a new best friend, with much pondering. The rest of us, each take over a couch or chair or portion of rug and, read.
A few months ago, my 11 yr. old daughter’s best friend (also 11) spent a week with us and happily joined our reading time ritual.
The boy is a reading snob. He reads like a New York Times Book Review critic, fast and a little bit angry. One evening, he looked up from a story he’d been fighting with and noticed my daughter reading calmly. Slowly. Her hands both held her book, her face showed no trace of anxious anticipation for the next page.
The next morning, my daughter wanted to talk to me about what he had told her after. She said,
Mom? J. told me I read meticulously. He said I must linger over the pages so long because I’m delighting in the writing itself, not just looking for the story.
I let her explain.
I think he was telling me I read slow.
I mean, I do! Compared to him!
Since the boy’s gentle reprimand she reads differently. She too, now argues with her books. Nobel laureate molecular biologist, of DNA structure fame, James D. Watson says,
Never be the brightest person in the room. Getting out of intellectual ruts more often than not requires unexpected intellectual jousts. Nothing can replace the company of others who have the background to catch errors in your reasoning or provide facts that either prove or disprove your argument of the moment. And the sharper those around you, the sharper you will become.
Highly Creative people need intellectual equals as friends. Novelist Isabel Allende says,
The longer I live, the more uninformed I feel. Only the young have an explanation for everything.
When you think you know, when you feel ultra- Creative, that is when you need a friend to set you straight. You need at least one friend who does not coddle you, because in Creation, the truth does really set you free. Ancient Roman historian Plutarch said,
I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.
But Highly Creative people, male or female, often seek friends that nurture in conventional ways. Again James Watson says,
It’s contrary to human nature, and especially male nature, but being the top dog in the pack can work against your greater accomplishments. Much better to be the least accomplished chemist in a super chemistry department than the superstar in a less lustrous department.
For Creativity’s sake, true friends keep you on your toes, because like you, they know that to grow is to live and Create. Irish writer Oscar Wilde said,
True friends stab you in the front.
Seek friends that challenge, hopefully with tack, but be ready to be stabbed in the front.