For the past four days, Rachel the seven-year-old has been OBSESSED with something she calls her “invention”. I’m thinking a lot about the subject of creativity lately, and how many adults think they have to lose their creativity as they leave childhood behind them (in order to be responsible and earn a living etc). So the whole creative process and her way of thinking has been very interesting for me to observe (yes I know my kids are not a science experiment).
Anyway, she came home one day from school telling me she had an invention she HAD to make (this is not a school assignment but perhaps they spoke about inventions at school?). “Mommy I need one quite biggish box, some sticky tape and uhhh, a long thin thing. Maybe a cardboard tube. I dunno”. She didn’t want to go play with her friends while we all enjoyed a meal together, she wanted to stay home and bring her invention to life. Prototype 1 worked after a bit of trial and error (replacing the cardboard “chutes” with a bottle) but then it was declared too simple. “It’s too easy mommy”.
“I want two holes at the top of the box and then two bottles joined to those and then two bowls at the bottom to catch the marbles. And also a door at the front”. We had to empty out honey bottles (didn’t work – too sticky), shampoo bottles (slightly better) and buy better tape (sticky tape wasn’t cutting it, so we had to buy black duct tape). She drew buttons on the outside of the now empty box of wine, stuck on sparkly stickers. Wrote out pieces of paper with numbers on it, telling you whether or not you got the right amount of marbles in the right cup at the bottom (I must confess that I still don’t really understand the game exactly). Prototype 2 was not satisfactory and there were tears.
More suitable bottles of the right length and size had to be found and after many hours of sticking and resticking and repositioning, she declared Protoype 3 “perfect”. So for the last two days we have been lugging her invention around on our weekend away (it took pride of place at her feet in the car), back home again (next to her bed with her most special items) and then to school where everyone must have a turn (“Can I take it back tomorrow mommy as so-and-so hasn’t had a turn yet?”).
It’s the single-mindedness that I find fascinating. This idea she had in her little head, that simply had to be realised. And SHE WOULD NOT REST until it was done. It strikes me that this is how all groundbreaking ideas must come about, once people are adults. Those who have retained their creativity have ideas that come to them and they ignore any ridicule and simply bring them to life, whatever form they may be in. Most are probably very pedestrian ideas or don’t actually work at all, but some of them are pure brilliance and turn out changing the world. Either way, we will never know which one our “invention” will be unless we actually make it happen. As Liz Gilbert said in Big Magic:
“And you have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”
I hope more than anything that she’ll retain this urge to make things, no matter if they are machines that make people’s lives easier, bridges that forge new pathways, cakes that make people smile, or books of poems that bring people to tears.
I guess I find the invention thing so interesting because it is simply not how my brain works. But her Dad is a qualified engineer, so perhaps there’s that. Or maybe she’s just her own unique little self, a future inventor, who can make magic with a box, an empty bottle and some sticky tape.
Kids hey. We teach them stuff but they teach us even more on most days.
Have good weeks all (I won’t say “follow your dreams” because that’s trite, but maybe think about that metaphorical empty cardboard box of yours that the world needs you to transform into something special).