There’s nothing like cracking open a huge compendium of Maurice Sendak words and illustrations before the crack of dawn. Coffee’s hot, candle’s burning bright and St. Patrick is standing by. And the Wild Things? They’re hanging from tree branches waiting to play, reminding us how it felt to be young and truly alive.
In his own words, Sendak, the best-known illustrator of children’s books of our time said this: “It’s not that I draw or write better than other people… it’s that I remember things other people don’t recall: the sounds and feelings and images - the emotional quality - of particular moments in childhood.”
As children we relied on nothing more than hope, curiosity, and love, and consequently we viewed everything as opportunity. Every rock we flipped over in tide pools, every sand castle we built on the beach, every cloud we watched form into giant white animals, we saw through the lens of potential.
Then we got educated.
And the smarter we got, the harder it became to see through the same lenses we once had as children. That's the paradox of education. The great creators are the ones who never consider themselves fully educated, and they have little patients for formal education. They want to keep learning, keep exploring, keep flipping rocks in tide pools. They're not motivated by being the smartest, most credentialed, or most degreed.
The amateur doesn't hesitate to take chances. They will try and try again if they think they will grow from the experience. They will gladly accept failure if it inspires and pushes them forward. They know that creating something as silly as a sand castle is better than creating nothing at all. And they're right.
"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories." ~ Kurt Vonnegut
If you think you've lost some of that childlike, amateur thinking, know you're not alone. It happens. If you want to get some of it back, try recalling your childhood - those good memories when you were king of the jungle. When you were Cinderella. When being curious wasn't a task. When every bend in the road was a learning opportunity. When failing wasn't just ok, it was expected.
Sendak reminds us that our childhood holds the deepest fears and highest joys of our lives. He urges us to recall the delights of the child still inside us. Read any of his books. Or dive into Robert Graves, The Big Green Book, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It'll help you get some of your childlike thinking back, the kind of thinking that makes you more empathetic, hopeful, curious, and a better creator.
Note: all photos are of Morgan and Jon Kennedy, my MoJo.