…but it’s always nice to come home to your own bed.
I spent the last four days in California, visiting family and meeting my adorable new nephew, Little G. It was nice to see my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and the kids. My niece (Big G) is three and the smartest little girl on the planet (I’m allowed the superlative…she’s my niece!). I don’t spend a lot of time around children but how many 3 year olds use words like “miraculous” and “spectacular”, clearly stated and in context? My brother tells me she’s learning all sorts of life lessons from Sponge Bob, so I guess cartoons are good for education and for big words. 🙂
It was hard to find time to write as Big G had been granted the special treat of having Auntie “sleep over”, which meant my bed time was much earlier than usual. However, I wouldn’t trade the snuggling and the pillow talk for all the words in the world. Fortunately, long flights allow for plenty of time on the keyboard between travel naps.
That childish pillow talk was inspiring. We have so much to learn from children and their imaginations. Big G’s flexible little brain isn’t cluttered with the detritus of grown-up life, so she’s free to imagine life as a princess or a “meow meow”, where ghosties and beasties are nice creatures.
Showing her that Nonie and Grandpa live about an inch away (between thumb and index finger), which means they can drive, and Auntie lives as far away as a thumb and index finger spread wide, which means flying, makes sense to a 3-year old, particularly when followed up by looking at a map. It seems simple to her, but oh so complicated to the grown-ups who love her and miss her and want to spend time with her and her brother as often as possible. She can paint a picture in her head that explains distance, no high gas prices involved.
But back to what we can learn. This isn’t a new idea. Many people, much more intelligent than I, stress the importance of re-capturing our childhood to free our imaginations. As writers, our imaginations are an integral part of our process. Without them, we’re just putting words on a page while running the risk of telling, not showing.
I discovered something this weekend. Those of you fortunate enough to have children need only listen to their chatter. If you pay attention, you might be rewarded with an idea for an antagonist or a heroine. I know that happened to me…I found my villain in a child’s imagination. Big G’s nebulous and sweet “beastie” morphed into a psycho kidnapper when I “borrowed” her imaginative idea and applied it to my novel.
(I’m trying not to think too hard about how I twisted her innocent idea into something scary because I really don’t know what that says about my mental state. However, rest assured I didn’t tell Big G what I’d done. She’s secure in the knowledge that her “beastie” is bright pink and cuddly.)
For those of us who don’t spend time with children, we need to put more effort into opening our minds to creative thought. Write down our dreams. Lay on our backs on soft spring grass and cloud gaze. Take a walk. Swing on the swings. Watch cartoons. Splash in a fountain. Hop and skip and jump and play. Channel a child’s imagination.
Wanna go play?