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 Setting Your Own Path.
Creativity in a given domain builds on pleasure but is sustained, just like the best of relationships, with lifelong attention.
A few months ago, my son and I happened to walk past the Lego isle at a toy shop. We didn’t stop, but his eyes skipped a blink.
Cognitive psychologists measure a baby’s interest in or recognition of objects by split second differences in attention. A baby will look at an object that captures her interest a tiny bit longer. I registered my son’s pause and knew what I’d buy for his next birthday.
He’s crazy-infatuated now. Four hours a day using Lego’s Design by Me site is not enough. He eats, sleeps and swims when I insist he must take a break. The rest of his day is spent as follows:
- building Legos
- talking his sisters (at home) and cousins (by phone) into buying Legos
- begging to help me with unsavory (paid) chores, so he can buy Legos
- trying to figure out how to work as a Lego designer, by the time he turns 13 (he’s willing to move to Denmark)
He may not remain monogamous for long in this relationship with Legos. His first child may, or may not, be born in Bullund, Denmark. Regardless, working long hours with Legos will serve a more enduring, future Creative pursuit by fortifying, among other things, problem-solving and three-dimensional design skills. And he will love Legos into old age for the joy he feels today.
Love for a domain need not reach full-blast, at first sight. In fact, it will need 10,000 hours of devoted attention to allow for Creativity.
My 11 yr. old daughter spent the big bucks, this morning, on acrylic paint tubes. She’s been painting all afternoon and left her room for dinner, amazed two hours had passed since she last left the easel. Up-sweeping her brow, she said,
Wow. I can see how artists get so involved in their work.
This overt love of painting is new but an interest has simmered in her subconscious for years. Now, with her recent 45 hours of art lessons squeezed into three weeks, she’s hooked. She’s learned who Mary Cassatt was and how hard Claude Monet fought for respect and relates, even if only a bit.
Her sweet infatuation may grow tall and wide to lead her to Art School later or, it may ripple into a different domain for her as well.
My most vivid memories of childhood recall the amazing (to me), cosmological questions I pondered back then. I’ve spent happy hours drawing and reading and running marathons. I’m crazy about my children and married my soul mate. But like Rene Descartes,
I think, therefore Iam.
Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, is a zoologist, financier and journalist. He travels and hikes and dabbles in philanthropy. But is true love seems philosophy. He thinks about the origins of Man and what makes us who, and what, we are. He married a neuroscientist. His training and his relationships, fuel his passion for thinking.
Young Albert Einstein‘s stint clerking in the Swiss Patent office, also fueled his thinking passion. He reviewed patents on clocks (which in his day were not atomic-time accurate) and pondered on the enigma of time.
Even the patron saint of polymaths, Leonardo Da Vinci, had one huge idea to drive all his projects. His was a lifelong love for the human eye. This awe for the human capacity to see drove his every invention and every work of art.
Highly Creative people eventually stop flitting domain to domain to devote themselves to the one domain they’ll love lifelong. They dream within one domain and love it, as long as life.