finding your eden: why creativity matters

Boys and girls come out to play! The moon is shining as bright as day!

Leave your supper and leave your sleep, and join your playfellows in the street!

When my kids were little, we had one of those CDs of Mother Goose songs that was played every day during every car ride. You’d drop the kids off at nursery school and feel the need to detox, maybe with some 80’s hair metal. Years later, I no longer go around thinking about Mary’s little lamb or Aunt Rhody’s unfortunate goose, but somehow that one song above has stuck with me. It has worked its way into my brain as the siren call to leave behind the drab, duty-bound adult world and enter into play and creativity. I catch myself humming it when I feel the drumbeat of a fresh writing idea, not necessarily this kind of writing but the other kind that dares me to be a raucous, wild child for awhile, to fly off to Neverland in my mind.  It’s the call to make art in bold splashes. To make music in a riot of sound. To let prose or poem spill from one journal page to the next. Without critic. Without editor.

But there’s another place I also yearn to go that’s beyond the fertile, chaotic Neverland of unfettered imagination. I call it finding my Eden, and I am convinced that to live whole and joyful lives, we must have some kind of mental, spiritual, and physical space where we get to take the raw stuff of Neverland and cultivate it into something we can share with others.

I like the Eden image because it presents beauty as coming from both freedom and order. Eden was designed as a place where humans interacted with each other in the context of the first marriage—a place of intimacy but also of fulfilling work caring for the garden together. It was also a place where humans could interact with the Creator as He walked through the garden, perhaps discussing and celebrating with Him what they had created that day. I think our souls still long for an Eden. Yes, those of us who believe in the promise of heaven do long for restored communion with God in paradise. But I’m also talking about the part of each of us that yearns to create something beautiful right now and to connect to others through that creativity.

For me, that means putting breathing room into my schedule for two things: unstructured mental play time to create new things and structured work time to refine what I’ve created so I can share it with others. I’m a journal kind of person so sometimes that mental play simply looks like me jotting thoughts in my notebook while curled up in a comfy spot. Other times, I head out for a walk, especially to somewhere I can see water, while I mull over ideas. Or I’ll kick back and listen to music and think about things like which songs would be on various characters’ playlists. I’m also constantly making voice-to-text notes on my phone. That means wherever I am, whenever inspiration strikes, I can escape for a moment into an idea and record it for later. When I can talk out my ideas with nobody but the Notes program as the audience,  I find I’m not as stymied because I don’t have to worry about grammar or spelling or being held captive by a menacingly-empty Word document that’s staring me down from my computer. Later, I will spend structured work time massaging and expanding those ideas. I’ll put on my editor cap and shape them into something readable, but I find I’m much more relaxed and enthusiastic about it because I already have raw content to cultivate.

But what if writing isn’t your thing? Or painting? Or composing songs? Or any of the other so-called artistic or creative ventures? What if you’ve always thought of yourself as not very creative? Then, I’d gently suggest that your definition of creativity might be a little narrow. The important thing is to find out what your Eden looks like.

When do you feel a spark of enthusiasm and interest? Is there something that you do, not because you have to check off a chore list but because you want to experience the joy and pleasure of that activity? Is there something that you find builds up your soul and maybe another’s soul, too? I have a friend who loves to create beautiful meals for her family. Her canvas truly is a dinner plate, and it is gorgeous to behold. As a “functional cook” who’s lucky if everyone at my house eats some kind of protein and something that at one time might’ve grown out of the ground, I love to see what she creates. I love the joy that radiates from her when she talks about a meal that she worked hard on and that brought enjoyment to other people. I have another friend who loves computer programming and the world of virtual reality, and he inspires me with the way he wants to create things that engage and benefit others. These are people whose Edens don’t look like mine. And that in itself is a beautiful thing. So I’m asking you this: what does your Eden look like, and how can you make more room for that in your life?

Because in this harsh world where hate and war and suffering dominate the headlines, we could all use a little of your Eden in our lives. 

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