Create with the Wonder and Curiosity of a Kid
The following blog post is taken from a talk I gave on creativity recently at the Victorious Music Festival…
Think of a favourite game you used to play when you were a young kid – a game which required your imagination.
One of my favourite games as a young child was – wait for it – pretending that I was a mini-cab driver.
Let me explain…
When I was about eight years old my family and I were going on our annual holiday to Ireland and my parents ordered a mini-cab to take us to the station.
When the cab arrived it was being driven by The Coolest Dude Ever. Or at least, that’s what my eight-year-old self believed.
For a start, he had his window all the way down, and one arm nonchalantly leaning out, the other on the steering wheel, but resting, flat-palmed on it – this guy was way too cool to grip the wheel.
He had music playing on the stereo – far better music than anything my embarrassing parents would play. And every so often a woman’s voice would mysteriously crackle over the airwaves with some kind of coded message for him, to which he would reply, also in code:
‘Roger Rog, P.O.B.’
I sat, mesmerised, on the back seat as he negotiated the busy London streets with speed and ease. In that moment, my fate was decided, when I grew up, I wanted to be a mini-cab driver too.
But the great thing about being a kid is you don’t have to wait to grow up to live out your fantasies. So, as soon as we returned from our holiday, I set about transforming my bike into a mini-cab.
I taped a transistor radio to the the handlebars – hey presto, a car stereo.
I changed various locations in my neighbourhood. The swings in the park became the airport, the entrance to our estate the station.
I constructed a walkie talkie out of cardboard and I was ready to speak the ‘Roger rog’ code.
I spent hours cycling around town that summer, pretending to be a cab driver taking imaginary fares to imaginary places.
And never once did I stop to question the validity or authenticity of my game.
The same applied to all of my creative pursuits as a child; the roleplays I created, the little books I wrote on folded up paper.
When children create they do so from the heart and free from fear.
But somewhere along the line, as we grow older, fear starts entering the creative equation.
Doubts that we aren’t good enough; that we don’t have what it takes.
For me, fear started entering the equation when I was at university.
Doubt that I didn’t have what it took to be a writer caused me to drop out and give up on my English degree.
Although I eventually managed to get a book deal (after several years in soul-destroying jobs) I was still creating from a place of fear. Fear that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t belong in the middle class world of publishing and writing.
And then, one day, my worst fears came true.
My fourth book didn’t sell well and I was dropped by my publisher.
But this ended up being the best thing that could have happened to me.
Convinced I would never get another book deal again, I started doing other writing-related jobs, such as editing and coaching writers and running writing workshops and teaching creative writing to teens.
Working with young adults reminded me of how much books had meant to me at that age – and how certain novels had really helped me get through the issues I faced.
The seed of a creative dream was planted – what if I wrote a novel for teens, with the aim of trying to help them in a similar way?
I could self-publish it and give the e-book away for free.
Writing that novel – Dear Dylan – was the most enjoyable experience of my writing career. Free from the fear of having to keep a publisher happy, I created from the heart, I experimented, I took risks, all with a sense of wonder and ‘what if…’
I self-published the book and to my surprise it started getting really positive reviews.
This gave me the confidence to enter it into a national book award and to my absolute shock and delight, it ended up winning.
This changed everything.
The book went to auction and I was back to being a traditionally published author again.
But the lesson I learned from my earlier ‘failure’ has stayed with me.
Whenever I feel fear tapping me on the shoulder, whispering doubts into my ear, I remind myself to create like a child; to chase the wonder, to follow my curiosity.
And I urge you to do the same.
Pursue your creative dreams with the limitless imagination and the passion of a kid – you never know what it might lead to…
My new novel, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, is out now.
‘It leaves you inspired to help make the world a better place. A must read for everyone.’
‘It will break your heart, then put it back together again, stronger and full of love.’