How to make space for creativity

This weekend, our daughter introduced me to the musician Billie Eilish, a 17-year-old musician who started writing music at 11 and released her first song, Ocean Eyes, when she was 14. (Sources – my daughter and Wikipedia).

Listening to this young women’s extraordinary voice – not just her actual voice, but also her lyrics –  I found my “mom brain” considering the environment that allowed this level of creativity to grow and thrive.

I could be wrong, but, I have a hard time imagining Billie and her older brother, Finneas O’Connell (again, thank you Wikipedia) sitting in front of their computers, mindlessly watching YouTube tutorial after tutorial, or playing video games into the wee hours of the night. Instead, I imagine a home pulsing with music and conversation; countertops and desks covered with notebooks filled with scribblings, and people coming and going who inspire the kids, and parents.

I also found myself wondering how we might be able to incorporate just a little of that into our own home, for our own children.

I have no delusions that our children will be the next Billie, Finneas or whatever name of whatever prodigy you can think of. But I do worry that by filling every available crack and crevice of their brains, they don’t leave space to think. To wonder. To daydream. To explore.

I worry because I see the tendency in myself. The time lost to mindless scrolling. The need to force myself to put down my device and pick up a book. A paintbrush. A rake. Or nothing at all.

I know the conventional wisdom. Set time limits. Enforce docking rules. Get them outside. Disconnect them from the devices so they can reconnect with the world around them (their four-week “digital detox” starts on Sunday when they check into summer camp).

These are the things I can do for them.

But I want to know is how do I encourage them to want more space? To crave the quiet? To find their path (or paths)? To make space for creativity?

6 thoughts on “How to make space for creativity

      1. I’m more interested in the book-creativity connection. On the one hand, reading requires paying attention, which is more or less the opposite of mindwandering and the latter’s role in creativity. On the other hand, if reading prompts during- or post-reading insights, maybe it’s a good creativity trigger.

        I found this:

        The article is paywalled, so I don’t know anything more than that it proposes a “facilitation hypothesis,” which suggests reading-creativity causation.

        But don’t pick up the rake.

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      2. I have always wondered about how/why reading a book is different than scrolling/reading updates – because I do believe it is. I believe it exercises a different part of my brain. It inspires me to write and nothing thrills me quite like a good turn of phrase.

        How about a shovel?


      3. Book vs. article vs. social media post. Print vs. digital. Just as handwriting yields better recall than typing notes, it wouldn’t surprise me that different things are going on here.

        Pick up a torque wrench. Or a derailleur hanger guage. Or a chain whip.

        Don’t pick up the shovel.

        On your deathbed, you won’t say, “I wish I had spent more time doing yardwork.” But you might say, “If only I had bled my disc brakes, I wouldn’t be here on my deathbed.”


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