Child playing lego

I am yet to skate, wear rollerblades, and ride a skateboard. I have never ridden a roller coaster because I was too afraid to try. I have never played paintball or laser tag. I wish I had my own scooter and Gundam robot. The remote-controlled car I had was a cheap version I bought for myself.

There are many things I never get to try when I was a child. I remember harboring feelings against my father because he can’t give me what I wanted. I still feel some of that pain when I enter a toy store today.

And yet, despite all of it, I’ll exchange everything I have now to be a child even for just a day.

I would pick up a stick, wear a blanket for a cape, and create imaginary characters and scenes that I alone will act out on the go. I will bring out my action figures (or whatever is left of them) and make them fight each other for one more championship. I will look for a santol leaf and cut some of it to create a dragon. I will cut out TEKS characters and create stories out of them. I will create an entire metropolis out of legos. I will create my own board game and play it with my cousins. I will draw comic strips on a composition notebook.

Such freedom.

Such creative freedom.

I know I could never be that child again but thinking about this now makes me ponder about what I really desire deep down as an artist. And this is what I want: creative freedom. Child-like creative freedom.

I honestly don’t care about fame, achievement, and the money and power that come with them. All that really matters to me is the freedom to create what I want when I want. Because that is the kind of creative life I knew and loved when I was a child. And even if I can’t be that child again, even if I can’t retrieve that purity, I can always design my creative life in a way that allows this playful child-like existence to flourish.

Here are some rough pointers I think could help me honor child-like creative freedom. If you share the same desire, these pointers might help you too:

  1. Try not to have a goal. Just start a creative session with curiosity. Let your imagination loose. Follow where it brings you.
  2. Try out different things. Stop sticking to a single creative media. Try out other crafts. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at any of the new ones. What matters is you’ve tried out something new that you can mix up with all the other things you’re already doing. Then let all of them talk to each other and see what comes out. I do this with poetry, translation, drawing, storytelling, and photography.
  3. Don’t be too serious about your creative life. Just play and have fun.
  4. Run from artist groups or workshops that will disrespect your work. Avoid them like the plague. Look for your tribe and create for them instead. They are the ones whose feedback really matters anyway. You can do this by starting a blog or publishing a newsletter featuring your work to slowly build your audience.
  5. Find a day job that does not suck out all your creative energy and allows you to play around after (or even before) work.
  6. Always get in touch with what you want to feel out of the creative process. A lot of the time, we forget that we do things for the feelings, states of mind, or experiences they generate. Being conscious that feelings are the goal and being mindful of what you want to feel every step of the creative process will connect you with what really matters. It will also help you decide whether to accept or reject a creative opportunity.

Bonus: Read Keri Smith’s powerful list of things to avoid as an artist.

Happy creating!