They’re Poets (Because They Don’t Know It)

The way my 5-year-old and my 3-year-old manifest creativity, and the way I do at 42, is vastly different. And that difference speaks volumes about the limitations of adulthood, and the innate wonder (and wonderfulness) of childhood.

Here is what Greyson and Violet’s creativity looks like. Either separately or together, they spontaneously generate what could be described as song-poem-stories. These are rapidly flowing, sing-song-y streams of consciousness (branching into smaller tributaries of consciousness) that tell miniature stories. Often fascinating, always goofy, sometimes incomprehensible, and never even remotely dull.

The raw material that makes up these stories is a combination of the stuff that is in our house, the stuff that we watch on TV with the kids, and the stuff that interests them in general — such as animals, vehicles, nature, Christmas carols, and Hersheypark. Sometimes the miniature stories are relatively linear and make sense to my Euclidean mind. And sometimes they defy logic, narrative coherence, explanation, and/or gravity (as when the characters in the story suddenly float up into the sky for no reason).

My favorite part about these song-poem-stories is that Greyson and Violet verbally conjure them with breakneck velocity. Never pausing. Never second-guessing. Never self-judging. They simply utter the colorful, silly, wondrous mess of details that are in their sweet little minds, in whatever order they happen to come out of their sweet little mouths, and then they move on to the next story.

They are unaware of either the artistic brilliance or the narrative flaws of their story creations. So in a sense, there are no flaws. These song-poem-stories attain a kind of innocent perfection because they are birthed from minds untethered from the chains of self-consciousness. And untethered from any sense of wanting or needing to create something for public consumption.

Their creativity is instinctive. Pure impulse, pure pleasure. They are creating for the sake of creating.

Then there’s 42-year-old me. My own creativity is decidedly more… tethered. I second-guess, I judge myself, and my streams of consciousness are anything but rapidly flowing. I wake up early and need a half-cup of coffee to even begin conjuring up some words. Even then, I get distracted from the act of creation by last night’s Colbert monologue or NBA box scores.

Once I start, I painstakingly craft each sentence within an inch of its life, looking in every case for that elusive perfect word choice, like Indiana Jones arduously searching for the holy grail in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon. (I think I might be mashing 2 of those movies together. My apologies to George Lucas.)

During my lower moments, like last winter or the previous summer, I can’t seem to access my creativity at all. In a typical year, I’m only creative for 5-7 months. So I try to capitalize on my periods of mental awakeness by writing as much as I can. But because I craft everything so methodically, my creative output is limited to maybe 25 annual blog posts. 30 in a good year, 20 in a sluggish one.

Greyson and Violet, on the other hand? I can’t begin to keep track of their creative output. Because they aren’t hyper-aware of their own creativity and don’t harshly judge one ounce of it, they generate words and conjure mental images at a truly prolific clip. They’re like a band that pops off a great album every year (the Beatles in the late ‘60s, maybe?), while I’m like the band that releases only 2 albums per decade because I’m crafting every note of every measure as if the future of humanity is hanging in the balance.

I hope our kids start writing down their wildly imagined song/poem/stories sometime soon so that we’re able to document their artistic body of work more easily. We try to encourage Greyson to do that, but so far he’s more of an impromptu guy.

He and Violet are like improvisational spoken-word poets. A new generation of free-flowing beatniks. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg would be proud. But even those guys wrote their prose and poetry (I assume) with public consumption in mind.

Greyson and Violet simply do it because they’re pure artists. Just as all children are, before they become hyper-aware.

I envy and deeply admire that trait. And I’m grateful to have a front-row seat.

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