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Posted by Peter Himmelman
Why do we humans have such a strong need to create? Might identifying that need help us when we’re having trouble making a dream manifest? Perhaps our need to innovate is tied to our need to generate money for ourselves and our families. But then what about the nine-year old kid who sits and draws for hours on end like I used to do? I can tell you for sure, I never thought about making money when I was nine; my dad was doing that. I was making what was in my head come alive through crayolas and paper. At that time it was a gang of monsters called Glirches -who of course, lived in Glirchville.
There was something so fulfilling about creating this town of Glirchville. A special place wrested from my own imagination where I could be the mayor, the policeman, the banker and the jailer all in one. Even as I was busy drawing away, there was often this thought in the back of my mind that the pictures I was making might get noticed for their brilliance by someone special, most likely my mom.
That brings us two more possible motivators for creativity: One is the joy of the actual immersion in the drawing itself. The process of getting the Glirches out of our imaginations and quickly down on paper. There are no thoughts of outcomes or judgments or expectations fulfilled. It’s a much more pure process of allowing the thoughts to be made immediately manifest on the page. This is the place where we get lost for hours, where time flows freely and imperceptibly. Being in that creative space, with its freedom and possibilities is a truly magical part of our life experience.
The other side Glirch-making is being aware of outcomes even as we create. To be drawing while being simultaneously aware that our Mothers could soon be complimenting us, scotch-taping an original Glirchville on the refrigerator, or talking about how creative her son or daughter is. It’s not to say that this kind of motivation, this praised-based impetus, is without merit. Doing something for a reward does have the ability to motivate. It’s just that it’s far inferior to creating without any expectations at all. Once there’s an external factor looming in your thoughts, like a refrigerator exhibition, there’s also a corresponding:
What if it’s not good enough to go on the refrigerator?
While it’s noble to strive for the ideal of creating Glirches with no expectations, the reality is more complex. There will always be a blend of the two motivators. In our efforts to create we will continue to find ourselves going back and forth between the two. First, we’ll be drawing a scene of a Glirch swimming in the Glirch Sea, adding some glirch-birds and maybe even coloring the water Burnt Umber –just because it looks cool. Then suddenly, without us even noticing, the idea that our mothers will come in to our bedrooms and shower us with praise will come to us -followed shortly by the frightening thought that our mothers won’t shower us with praise.
The benefit of motivation number one, the purer of the two, is that it has the potential to enrich our lives in a deeper way than praise ever can. Praise after all, is contingent on outside forces. Something that is bubbling up from the wellsprings of our own imaginations and curiosity is far likelier to make us happy.
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September 11, 2012 | 11:22 am
Posted by Peter Himmelman
October 1978. Hopkins, Minnesota.
Today I’m going to do something dangerous. I’ll drive to Ridgedale. I’ll walk into Now and Then and ask to have my ear pierced. First though, I’ll drive to my father’s office to alert him of my plan. I’m sure he won’t be happy. Ex marines hate earrings.
'That’s great Pete,” he says. “Which ear are you gonna pierce?”
“Uhhh, my right ear I guess,” His expression catches me by surprise.
“Are you gonna get a hoop or a stud?”
What’s remarkable I think, is that my dad even knows the words hoop or stud.
“I’ll probably start with a stud and then get a hoop as the ear heals.”
“A hoop is nice,” my dad says. “How much is this whole deal gonna cost?”
“Twenty bucks.” I say.
My dad's smiling as he peels off three crisp ten-dollar bills and places them in my hand.
As I pull out of the parking lot I hear his big voice booming just outside the front door and I roll down my window.
“Pete, one more thing. Don’t come home.”