Maintaining Creative Control

08 Oct 2001
October 8, 2001

horoscopeI’ve been working on a web project about 9/11 and have been totally consumed. You know that feeling? Total commitment to an idea and its realization. It’s like the sports equivalent of the zone: you look up and five hours have passed since you last realized, well, reality. What a rush and mixture of emotions. I haven’t felt this way in quite a while. But, with the sharp awareness that I lack the power to control the uncontrollable these days, this is my only alternative.

All I’ve got is my creativity. It’s the one thing in life where no compromises are foisted upon me. No one is looking over my shoulder. And no one is evaluating my performance. I get the undiluted power to consider: listen to advice, think about the alternatives, and make the ultimate decisions. It makes me feel good. And it gives me a sense of control in my life.

Speaking of of which, I’ve been acutely aware of my daughter’s inaugural indoctrination into the societal rules of order since entering kindergarten a few weeks back. I am simultaneously sad and relieved.

The unbridled energy of toddlers is exciting to watch but oh-so-tiring (especially for us “older” parents). It’s hard to believe I ever had that amount of stamina (especially as I sit in my PJs at midday writing this). It’s fun and amazing to view the world through your child’s inexperienced and uncontrolled eyes.

On the other hand, I am an ordered person. Fear of chaos has often been my guide. In college I never pulled an all-nighter. Not once (I realize I’m the odd man out here). I always made sure I had finished the readings a week before each exam. This made me feel like I had enough time to study. It also allowed me to concentrate on the content of the course and not my reoccurring nightmare where I’m handed the exam only to realize I can’t tell which class it’s for! The upside of all of this is that I’ve grown to be good at organization. I can handle multiple tasks simultaneously with an eye at what has to be done up ahead. Egads. I’ve just described what it takes to be a, uh, Project Manager!

So, you can see why I have mixed emotions about watching my children learn to control themselves. It started on my daughter’s first day of school. After the first week she could recite the school’s five steps of conflict resolution: 1. Ignore. 2. Move away. 3. Talk friendly. 4. Talk firmly. 5. Get adult help.

And she can now say the Pledge of Allegiance with strength and the conviction of a five year old. We’ve explained to her just what she’s pledging allegiance to. She has homework, usually a fun art-based activity, every day (in an effort, we were told, to prepare them for the rigors of “real” homework to come in the 1st grade).

I’m pondering, though, where the fine line between teaching adherence to rules and teaching independent thinking resides. I’m a child of —I almost said “the 60s.” Well, I’m a child of my father actually. Through him I learned to question authority, usually his.

My hope is to work with both my daughters rather than try and control them when it comes to learning these lessons. And I’m just a little relieved to remember what I learned in my early days of art school: you’ve got to know the rules before you can learn how to break them!

2 replies
  1. Donna says:

    Came here via a link on “procrastination.” I thought it would be a game actually, something to waste a little time. But I liked this entry and especially related to the issues about art and rules.
    BTW, I wish more adults in our society would learn those school rules about avoiding conflict.

  2. Darragh Johnson says:

    Hello … I’m a writer at the Washington Post, and I’m trying to get in touch w/ Jeff Gates, to talk about leaves and leaf blowers, please …
    I can be reached at the email above, and my deadline is by the end of the week, Nov.15.
    Thanks much,
    Darragh

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