A Pursuit of Lost Creativity
Pardon My French
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 00:01
I have always harbored a secret (or not so secret) desire to be a writer. Some might try to say that I already am — after all, I’ve been writing for the guide since my freshman year and maintained a blog my entire time abroad. But that’s not the kind of writing I am talking about, despite how easily writing about an art exhibit or my love of burritos is one thing that happens to come quite easily to me. Writing an original and creative story that other people find joy and meaning in is a whole different ball game — one that I have found myself struggling with time and time again.
It’s not like I haven’t tried. The past three years, I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo) as a personal challenge to jumpstart my writing juices. Three times I have tried and three times I have failed to write more than a few sentences. I have blamed this on a bunch of different things — November is terrible timing academics-wise, traveling gets in the way, 50,000 is a LOT of words, but no matter how I try to spin it I’m no closer to finishing my “Great American 21st Century Novel.”
I think what frustrates me the most about my perceived failure as a writer is how I feel like I have no idea how to approach being creative anymore. When I was little, I could create detailed and fantastic worlds and stories at the drop of a hat. I could spend hours, alone or with friends, playing out dramatic storylines rife with danger, intrigue and character development. Did they make sense? Probably not. But they were big and complicated and I was entirely invested in their twists and turns.
Playing with my five year old cousin, I see the same sort of unbridled creativity. Almost every sentence that comes out of her mouth when we play begins with the word pretend. Sometimes it’s straightforward like, “Pretend you’re my pet puppy and I have to take you to the vet,” or, “Pretend Simba falls in the lake and gets eaten by sharks and they can’t save him.” Or sometimes it’s totally out of left field, like, “Pretend they [her stuffed animals] get married with their ears.” I doubt even Maggie could explain what that one means but I would be able to keep up and contribute to her crazy stories instead of just nodding and acting like I’m playing along.
I wish I could explain where all my youthful creativity went. Maybe somewhere along the way I stopped spending time curled up under my desk pretending to be an orphaned Inuit girl trapped in a whiteout blizzard with only my trusty pet Polar Bear to protect me and started spending more time sitting at my desk, applying that same energy to learning trigonometric proofs or the taxonomic family of the Warty Sea Cucumber. It also may just be part of growing up. One day you’re digging in the bushes in your backyard for dinosaur bones, the next day you’re joining LinkedIn and developing opinions about economic theory.
But I really don’t like this idea that growing up means giving up the best parts of being a kid. Who says I can’t be both a mature “grown up” and an excited, energetic kid? So this semester, besides making personal efforts to focus on improving my grades, turning in my articles on time and never using the word “busy” to describe my life, I am going to do my damndest to find my inner crazy kid, get my creativity back and finally figure out how to tell the stories that have been jangling around the back of my brain for years. Keep on the look out — someday you won’t just see my name as a byline, but on a book cover.
Nicole Jarvis is a junior in the College. PARDON MY FRENCH appears every other Friday in the guide.