On July 27, 2017

A celebration of creativity

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Exactly one year ago I wrote my first weekly column in the Mountain Times when a Canada lynx kitten was perched outside our home upon our return from Woodstock. The magnificent creature appeared during the annual Bookstock literary festival and seemed like a fitting event. It blended the genres of mystery (to determine the kitten’s identity and origin), scientific discovery (to learn about this rare and endangered species), and fantasy (due to its magical appearance, first in daylight and, three months later, at night). That little Canada lynx kitten inspired me to write my very first Mountain Meditation weekly column, which I’ve continued to write since then.

Even Albert Einstein declared that imagination is more important than intellect or knowledge: “For knowledge is all that we now know and understand, and imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Imagination is the sustenance of artists and inventors, scientists and writers, dreamers and creators.

What is creativity and what are its benefits? Creativity is the ability to challenge, question and explore. It involves taking risks, playing with ideas, keeping an open mind and making connections where none are obvious.

Creativity sparks imagination and originality. It teaches concentration, collaboration, communication, and problem solving. Creativity develops emotional intelligence through self-expression, empathy, positive emotions, and a desire to learn. Creativity fosters self-confidence and respect through self-discovery of talents, strengths, and passions. Creativity helps people flourish by offering a sense of purpose, belonging, and accomplishment.

“Why should we all use our creative power? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate,” Brenda Ueland wrote. She was a journalist, teacher, writing theorist, early feminist, and author of “If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit” (which Carl Sandburg declared “the best book ever written on how to write”); “Me: A Memoir,” and a biography of her suffragette mother, “O Clouds, Unfold: Clara Ueland and Her Family,” which was rejected by publishers until nearly 20 years after her death.

I’d never heard of Brenda Ueland but her quote captivated me, so I followed along the circuitous route where this column often leads because, in her words, “no writing is a waste of time — no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good.”

I could relate to Ms. Ueland’s words. When I found 50 of her quotes on goodreads.com I was ecstatic. She put into words what I’ve always felt about the connection between imagination, creativity, and children: “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten — happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”

I loved reading Alexandra Subramanian’s essay, “Wisdom from Our Foremothers: Brenda Ueland and Katherine Anne Porter.” She shared the joy she feels watching her own children in their creative, imaginary play, and realized that “If children are not jerked about from place to place, they will naturally begin to play, to create, and to dream.”

Ueland called it “dreamy idleness” and noted that “the imagination works slowly and quietly.” Inspiration “needs moodling, long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” I’m all for puttering, and could dawdle hours away (if not for the guilt). I can relate to Ueland’s wise sentiments on the need for children and adults to be “slowly recharged with warm imagination, with wonderful living thoughts.” It’s true. That’s when the best ideas pop into my head, and if they have time to linger and grow, they can develop into beautiful things. But in today’s world with our constant motion and frenetic pace, a compulsion for multi-tasking and efficiency have hijacked our brains. We have abandoned deep thoughts for short tweets.

Let’s put aside our technology and whirlwind for a literary and artistic pause, to be inspired and to create something that engages our imaginations and excites our senses. Let’s allow a thought to break through like a seed, water it in the sunshine, and encourage it to develop and grow. Who knows what wondrous thing might emerge if we nurture that thought to its flourishing?

Brenda Ueland asked, “What is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty?” After a pause, she answered herself that “the best way to know the Truth or Beauty is to try to express it . . . and share it with others.”

Marguerite Jill Dye, Vermont and Florida artist and writer, will provide a free children’s bookmaking workshop at Bookstock in Woodstock, Saturday July 29, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., based on “Where Is Sam?” with its author, Sandra Garner (details at bookstockvt.org).

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