Wednesday, May 23, 2012

like a kid again

What's that old saying... "Youth is wasted on the young."  I suppose that means that the newness of life, the freedom of unattachment, the strength of body and mind often all go unnoticed by young people.  They are usually too busy working out their wants and needs, striving to get noticed, and seeking their ambitions to notice what those with more age often see- how spectacular life is, how amazing the human body is, and that things usually do work out in the end.

I don't feel particularly over the hill yet, except as I notice life passing by and my kids growing up.  Day in and day out of watching children turn from baby blob to chatty toddler to terrible teen and eventually into their own new and special personality, is a perfect way to see the perspective of time. As the sameness of my life as a housewife and mama repeats itself, I have begun to feel old. 

Opening the doorway into this writing world has taken me back quite a few steps to my own bumbling, stumbling younger days.  Going to meetings where I know no one, extending my hand for friendship to writers, admitting I have much to learn, asking for help, searching the internet for information, markets, publishers, and friends, and immersing myself in Nature Writing Camp have all thrown me back into that uncertainty and exhilaration of youth.  This work is a whole new thing for me, and I suddenly feel like a shy, lost child.

It turns out that this might actually be just the ticket for expanding my creativity. I've been reading Jonah Lehrer's book Imagine.  In it there is a chapter that discusses how new experiences, travel, and naivety all promote a higher level of brain insight and connectivity.  In essence, the experience of being an outsider gives us a better chance to solve problems and defy impossibilities. 

But the world is full of outsiders, or rather kids. Young people have yet to fully understand the world (though they may claim they know it all) and this inexperience gives them the innocence and ignorance to hear new ideas and willingly take them on.  They are not hung up on the "rules" nor do they shy away from things that are "different."  Youth, or the feeling of being an outsider, opens up a pathway to creativity that is remarkable in its effects.

Lehrer goes on to say that people who have lived in foreign countries, who have tried new things, who experienced the differences and diversity of life, and the people who are young and simply do not know better, are much more open-minded than folks who haven't stepped outside their comfort zone. The benefit to being open-minded?  You suddenly have a whole new world of possibilities to draw from.  In my experience open-mindedness is positive for helping navigate relationships, but Lehrer claims, through the research he studied and cites, that this also helps the brain open up to greater creative insight. People can solve more puzzles, answer more questions, create more art, and invent more new things when their brain is willing to accept differences and bend like the trees in the wind.

However, age, experience, and loss of innocence do not have to mean a lessening of creativity. Lehrer reminds us that youth is a state of mind.  The very thing that I have been experiencing as I take on the world of writing.  I have no clue what I am doing and I feel young and stupid all over again. Taking classes on new subjects, learning a language, engaging with strangers, or traveling the world and immersing ourselves into the unknown all can erase that number of however many times we have revolved around the sun and make us feel and think like a kid again.

Youth may be stupid, but it turns out, that might not be such a waste after all.

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