Creativity Revisited: Decorating Your Own Cathedral

TGSG Note: Sometimes as a writer, a topic or post just resonates with us — for whatever reason. This post is one of those for me. In fact, if I had to pick one thing to share, it would probably be this piece.

Recently, I was discussing Gilbert’s work with a friend — someone who I respect very much. While he had read the book Eat, Pray, Love (well, to be honest, he never finished it), he had never heard her speak. He was not a fan of the book, and while I am, I tried to explain that the book paled in comparison to seeing her speak. Well, at least for me.

Now, I am not really a woo-woo out there person, but I will tell you that I feel this odd kinship with Elizabeth Gilbert, a woman I was slow to hear about. For whatever reason, I didn’t read her book for the longest time. A friend had finally gone out and gotten it for me, but I let it sit on my coffee table for months and months. Not thinking, I casually tossed it in my bag for a work trip I was taking to Italy, where I finally got around to reading it.

So you see — here is the weird thing: my maiden name is Elizabethe Gilbert. I just so happened to have been living in Rome at the same time as Elizabeth Gilbert, where I too was trying to start life over and get my footing, and it was at this time I really started flirting with the idea of becoming a writer.

While I loved the book (although, oddly enough India was my favorite part), it wasn’t until I saw her speak that things really started to click for me. Thoughts set in motion. Permission granted. Calm, and more.

Below you will find the original post, and I have added her TED talk as well. I hope that my friend will give her a few minutes of his time and see if his perspective shifts at all.

I hope that each of you have a person, a song, a poem — whatever — that gets your wheels turning and grants you permission to be OK with wherever you are headed, even if you don’t quite know yet.

Thanks for indulging my personal side today. ~ Bethe

I find myself writing about creativity for the second time this week. After all, it is something that we associate with childhood — make-believe, capturing the world in the colors of a 64 pack of crayons, or the wonderful and winding words of  a Shel Silverstein poem. Creativity should be the cornerstone of childhood (and adulthood as well).

I had the opportunity to see Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, speak last night. I was as struck by her engaging storytelling and warm spirit as I was for her quest to understand things — to ask questions and seek truths in a really joyful and thoughtful way. Not in a prescriptive and dogmatic way, or with an agenda of outcomes as her driving force, already answering questions yet to be asked. Her creativity is evident not only in her writing, but in the way her mind works, and the way she allows it to work.

She told a story about seeing the National Cathedral as a young girl, and being so inspired by the beauty and dimensions of its physical space that she wanted to recreate it in her bedroom. Right that very moment — leave DC and head home so she could get started on her own masterpiece — to start decorating her own cathedral.

How much do we love that about children?! Because they don’t just think those delicious thoughts — they act on them. They decorate their own cathedrals. If we let them have room to breathe — have time to just think, play, and make mistakes. If we nurture this discovery process, children find their own voices — their own creativity.

As parents, educators, and/or caring adults, we have to allow this to happen. It’s a conscious decision on our parts through choices that are sometimes unpopular, like limiting screen-time, including “educational” TV or video games. Actions like reducing the number of structured out-of-school activities kids are signed-up for, encouraging outdoor play and the exploration of the natural world, and trips to the library are also important ways to foster creativity.

Creativity must also find its way into our education system, via reform at all levels. Education is about far more than learning the facts — of learning what to think. Good education is learning how to think – how to ask questions and problem solve. How to love to learn. One size does not fit all.

Often, I think that creativity is attached to only the arts — drama, dance, music, and so on. Indeed, those are all creative, but so is math, science, economics, and the like. Creativity is the root of all those things. Of everything. Often, when someone says a person is creative, it can be meant as a slight. “Oh, he’s so creative,” can really mean, “Oh, he’s not too bright, but he’s an amazing dancer.” How sad is that?

Creativity. The power to innovate — all kids have this. We all have this, actually. It’s just the ability to allow ourselves to tap into it or give ourselves the time to embrace it that we seem to have misplaced. It’s time to take it back. It’s time to stop looking at creativity as something that is second, third or tenth on the list of things to value and nurture in our children and in society.

Let the children in your world decorate their own cathedrals. And while you’re at it, decorate your own.

Below you will find Gilbert’s TED speech. While I wish I could share her talk from the National Cathedral that gave me so much insight and calm about where I was at the time and allowing myself to finally become a writer, this one is also amazingly powerful and inspiring.

For a little additional inspiration, why not go see what Mother Nature is up to? She has creativity down in spades.

See you outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

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