My son is three years old. (He’s also having a nap right now. A pertinent point as it explains a. why I’m here writing and b. why I might abandon this post mid-way through.) Three is a fun age to be around. He can talk well and understand what is said to him. He can remember things and make associations and extrapolate meanings. (All talents that conversely seem to be declining in me, as the train of exhaustion that is parenthood continues to plough a furrow of disarray through my life.)
He can live in a world of his own imagination for hours at a time, supplying scripts off-the-cuff for hosts of toys and random inanimate objects. It’s fun just to sit and watch and wonder. I can happily lose myself in observing him losing himself in his rich internal world. (Meta much?)
Eager to hitch my wagon to his star I thought that now would be the perfect time to fish for some creative inspiration from his shiny and brand new consciousness. If I sound like the worst possible kind of creative vampire, please don’t judge me too harshly. I blame the pressure of trying to post every day. But there’s less than a week left of NaBloPoMo and I’m pretty sure I’ll return to my non-vampiric state once that pressure is off. Here’s hoping.
Oh, the other crucial fact of life around a three year old that I forgot to mention is that it takes HOURS to get them to go to sleep at night. Seriously. Hours. Nobody tells you that before you have kids. Or if they do you either fail to hear it or fail to understand the significance of it. This fact goes some way to explaining my current state of constant exhaustion and creative stagnation. BUT it also gives me the perfect opportunity for experimenting with
sucking the creative juices from my infant’s brain a little creative brainstorming with a three year old.
Every evening is the same. After approximately 15 ‘just one more’ story book renditions I manage to flick the light switch to darkness on the proviso that I lay down in the toddler’s bed and tell him some more tales of my own devising. It’s a special time, lying there in the darkness together and spinning a story as he (hopefully) winds down from the day and relaxes into sleepfulness.
So my plan? Ask for a little more direction on the storytelling. Request prompts. ‘What kind of story would you like to hear? What do you want me to tell you about?’ Simples. Listen to the target audience and tailor new productions specifically to their needs.
I’m not quite sure what I expected but the prompts, when they came, somewhat took the wind out of my sails. ‘Shoes,’ he said, looking at his shoe rack, ‘I’d like a story about shoes.’ Oohkay. Or: ‘A bed.’ Or: ‘I wanna story about a wall.’
Not quite the rich vein of creative inspiration I had been hoping for. But it did get me thinking about how the mundane can be so important in the fabric of both our lives and our stories. The anchors that root us to place and character. The reassurance of the familiar. The resonance of recognition.
So I told my stories about shoes and walls and beds and about a little boy called Jack who is loved so well by his mummy and his daddy and his doggie and his cat. And, eventually, I got to peel myself away from him and up off his tiny toddler bed and with a kiss on his cheek and a whispered ‘I love you’ I snuck silently out his bedroom door.
Stories can come from anywhere. The very best ones are born of love.