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Storytelling and Creativity

31 January 2017

Janie read Maurice Sendak on Storytelling, Creativity, and the Eternal Child in Each of Us: His Marvelous Forgotten 1970 Conversation with Studs Terkel and reflected on the link between children’s literature and creativity.

Tags: creativity, janie read

I’ve always been a big fan of Maurice Sendak’s work. As I child, I remember my father reading Where the Wild Things Are and using dramatic voices for the different characters. Now, I thoroughly enjoy doing the same thing with my sons. Sendak’s stories and illustrations have always appealed to me, so I was delighted to read the excerpts from this interview on the Brain Pickings blog, and learn a bit more about the man behind some of my favorite stories.

In the interview, Sendak covered many topics, but what I found most interesting were his muses about the “child self.” He talked about the fact that many adults enjoy children’s literature, but seem to be almost embarrassed by this fact, as if it’s not acceptable to enjoy reading children’s books as an adult. He noted that he found this an “odd twisting and distortion of the pleasure of having your child self intact and alive and something to be proud of.” He also shared that he never set out to write for children. “I just write the book because I have to…I don’t have any audience in mind except my own pleasure.”

I have thought about both quotes a lot since I first read the article. I’ve always been a big fan of children’s literature. (I’ve read the Harry Potter series more times than I could tell you, and I definitely have friends who think this is weird.) I also love the notion that Sendak was writing for his own pleasure. It makes me think of my boys, and the stories they love most. My older son loves reading stories, and particularly loves stories that only have pictures so we can create the story together. He amazes me with the stories he comes up with. He thinks of things that I would never dream of, and he inspires me to think outside the box.

Thinking about these ideas, and the idea of my child self, made me recognize that when I embrace my child self I am more creative. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this before. I think sometimes I tend to compartmentalize myself into “work Janie” and “home Janie.” There are plenty of times that this is appropriate, but when I’m trying to brainstorm new ideas and think creatively, maybe it would help to blur the lines a bit and try to focus on my child self. She comes out most when I’m with my children, but I’ve realized there’s no reason that should be the only time she comes out. I look forward to embracing this idea the next time I’m trying to brainstorm about something. How do you tap into your creativity? I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments.


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