Saturday, June 7, 2014

Art and the inner child

 'The creative adult is the child who has survived.' 
Ursula K. Le Guin

The Art Club at my studio

If you've ever been to my art studio, you can tell that I designed it to be a fun place where my inner child can come out and play. It was a deliberate choice. After working through Julia Cameron's second creativity book, Walking in this World, I came to realize the importance of honoring the vulnerability of my artistic side. My little toys are a visual reminder that in order to be creative, it helps to embrace a childlike curiosity and willingness not to take myself too seriously.
As an artist, being in touch with my sense of creative play is something I cannot afford to lose.

So when I read the clickbait-titled "Against YA: Yes, adults should be embarrassed to read young adult books," I sighed and shook my head. A product of hype-aversion to the release of the film version of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars this weekend, the article basically accuses adults who read juvenile literature of immaturity. While my reasons for reading YA literature are mainly professional (after all, I need to read as many books as possible in the genre I'm writing), I have found other benefits that I didn't expect.

One of the recurring points made in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement has been that reading fiction engenders empathy. Not only does reading about people from different cultural backgrounds help you to see things from a different perspective, but the same can be said about reading about people from another age group. As I read more stories with teens as main characters, I find myself seeing them differently. Not just as my potential readers, but as individuals with their own unique generational challenges. Not as "those bad kids," but as human beings whose perspectives should be acknowledged.

Aside from those lofty reasons, there's also the fun factor. I've never wanted to become the kind of grumpy, too-serious adult who is completely oblivious to the things that people who are younger than me enjoy. There is the added bonus of being able to relate to kids when you find yourself working with them. I will never forget the delight of my young art students back in 2004 when I commented that their drawings reminded me of characters from Teen Titans or Mucha Lucha. At the time, I was also in design school and liked to keep the TV on in the background while working on projects. Whenever I wasn't tuned in to HGTV, I would turn to Cartoon Network. With a busy schedule full of both taking and teaching classes, watching The Powerpuff Girls or Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends was very relaxing. 

And as far as I'm concerned, if I can enjoy cartoons written for an 8 year old, what is so terrible about reading books written for teens?

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