THIS is why the arts are so critical for kids.
Not the arts where we teach them to draw something "good," or "well," but the arts where we give them permission to discover, incorporate their discoveries, and be seen and heard.
Our society is obsessed with results.
That's what works in the media. Show someone sitting there dieting, and that's boring. Show someone's "after" picture, and that's exciting.
Advertisers sell results, not process.
We glorify winners at the moment when they win. We watch the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the Final Four. We like the part where someone wins and confetti comes down and people yell and cry. If we want to contemplate their hard work, we do a musical montage that makes it look like all their workouts took about five minutes and were very exciting and dramatic.
What we don't see is the many hours spent practicing, messing up, trying things that you're not good at yet, stretching your limits. Failing. Trying again. Failing again.
We glorify "elite performers," when they are performing. But here's news: there are lots of "elite" people out there who do not care whether they ever win anything. They are passionate about what they do. Period.
The arts give our kids the chance to experience that passion. To really engage in something, not to get some result, but to discover things. To be seen and heard and encouraged for THAT.
This is what we lose when we don't let kids have time to engage in the arts. Or, to do a science experiment (that may or may not "work"). Without some end product or test score or adult's approval or tidy TV-friendly musical montage in mind.
A result is EXTERNAL. It is what comes when you beat someone else, or pass a test someone else made up.
The arts are INTERNAL. They tell you about yourself and how you see things.
All a kid wants is to be seen and heard. Unconditionally.
So, let them go out and compete for the big job or run in the race or take the test when the time comes. But right now, give them time to build their inner world, and to be valued for having one. Let them try things, have something unexpected happen, discover something.
This is what the arts do for kids.
So when I talk about letting out the Creative Beast, or Drawing Nothing, this is what I mean. Let kids build their world for themselves, so when that world intersects with the rest of reality, they've got a sense of who they are and how they think. A test score does not tell you this.
And, as an added bonus, here's one of my "semi-animated" stories, called How to Draw What's Not There. Enjoy!