My ten-year-old son has always had what I call “big feelings.” It’s more than being sensitive–he feels things more intensely and deeply than others do. It’s a blessing and a curse: while his “big feelings” makes him the sweet, loyal and creative person that he is, this intensity also makes it hard for him to shake off things that others don’t think twice about.
Recently, a really smart person explained to him that people who have such deep feelings are special because they experience the world in a way that some people never do–but if you’re not careful, if you don’t find a way to manage those deep feelings, they can overwhelm you.
And it hit me: this is what it’s like to be creative. You notice, sense, see things that others don’t. You think about things that others don’t. That’s what allows you to be creative, to be who you are. And yes, it can make life deeper, richer and fuller. But on the flip side, all that noticing, sensing and seeing things can be like sensory overload. Because along with the beauty of life, you also see and notice the seedy underbelly of life. It can depress you and drive you crazy if you let it. If you don’t manage it.
It makes me wonder: would life be easier–less complicated–if I weren’t creative? Would I be able to sit in a yard chair in the garage, drinking a beer and watching the world go by without once analyzing that world? Would I sleep more if I wasn’t constantly trying to make meaning out of everything? And just once, when someone asked me what I was thinking, would I be able to say, “Nothing!” without one trace of passive-aggressive anger or sarcasm?
But then I think about my creative work. I enjoy noticing the synergy between random, disparate ideas. I seek out patterns in life. I observe dialogue and interactions between people. I have way more energy than a sane person should when it comes to my creative work. I don’t worry about getting started when I am writing. I worry about stopping–it’s difficult to pull myself out of the world I have created in my mind’s eye. I would miss this very much if I was just watched the world go by and thought about nothing.
And then there is my son and his big feelings. I know that with our help, he will learn how to manage his emotions better. He spends hours building Lego creations, writing and illustrating stories, making up games for his friends to play. The teachers say that at his age, he should be done with imaginary play. I smile and nod and think, “You are full of shit.” No one should be “done” with imagination. That is how life becomes less challenging, less rich, less meaningful. Life might be easier. But the ride wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
What do you think? Would life be easier if you weren’t creative?