I recently picked up a copy of Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. It’s a book that was gifted to the hubs by a relative of mine. I was looking for some writing books given that this is the year I’m getting serious about writing that novel rattling around in my head. I was looking for more technical books, to be honest, but I still gave this one a read.
I wasn’t wowed by every essay, I don’t think I was meant to be. And yet, I still found that reading another writer’s essays sparked its own creativity and thoughts to process. In this collection, for me it was Bradbury talking about his relationship to his inner child that most stuck with me.
I’ve not been on close terms with mine until more recently. She was hurt, alone and suppressed for a very long time. In my mental health journey I’ve come to find that opening up a connection is vital to my creative process as well as my general mental health. I discovered that openly acknowledging her existence gave me a lot of clarity on the little things that would just trigger that everything-is-no state I’d find myself in without warning and seemingly without reason.
And in this process of finding her again, of befriending her, I found that I remembered things about my younger self that had escaped my memory a long time. I used to write silly stories about my brothers and our friends, with colorful gel pens, of course. I dreamed of creation and beauty and magic. Where did it all go?
Looking back it isn’t truly clear. But I think a strong thread through it all was this: As the eldest child, when my parents split I grew up. Not all at once and not everything was touched. But enough. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I could feel that something was wrong and, as children do, felt I needed to be strong when the household was in ruins.
I never saw the fights, never really heard them, even. And yet, there still remained this tender layer over everything. So in opening connection to that younger self I’ve wondered if things would have been different if the cracks had shown. Not just felt. If my mother, or my father, would have let us know that they were hurting too. That there wasn’t something wrong with me for feeling all those big scary feelings that were not all mine. Explained to me that it wasn’t my fault, for not being strong enough to hold it all together. Could I have saved my creative inner child the hurt and pain of putting that beautiful creative spark aside and growing up too soon?
Mostly this speculation is moot and wishing doesn’t make it so, and yet, and yet, I think my inner child needs to know that I would have protected her, if I had understood the stakes.
We are working tentatively towards an understanding. She is teaching me to slowly give myself to that youthful spirit of carefree creative abandon and I am simply giving her the room she needs to run free at last. Hopefully together we can tackle all the pent up creativity that has languished over these long years apart.
It is not easy and it is worth every effort to feel seen both as my adult self and the inquisitive child I still am. Worth it to feel the joy of untethered creativity like never before.
How is your relationship/connection to your inner child? Do you find it important to your creative endeavors?
PS. My latest art piece was a lot of fun, and a lot of vulnerability. I do not feel as well versed in the realistic style, though I can see that I have skill. I created another plant monster, this time based on a snake plant. Enjoy! The top head kinda looks like Kermit, unintentionally, of course! Didn't realize until the hubs pointed it out...