When I was younger I remember visiting my grandparents home, an old, red bricked building with just one floor.
The story was that my grandfather had built the home himself decades ago, by hand, brick by brick. He wanted to live near some land that had housed his orchard of apples, grapes, apricots, and – most understated – honey bees. So he bought up the nearby lot and built a home for his young family.
Every time I’d visit that place, my Father would sit in the kitchen with his Mother and talk about the state of the house, or how his Father was doing, or the best way to cook plums.
As they talked I would immerse myself in a world of Legos; those little yellow, blue, red, and green blocks that snapped together to create nearly anything my heart or mind desired.
Dozens of those little blocks remained scattered in a white pullout drawer at the edge of the hallway whenever any of us kids weren’t around. When we arrived at the home and the parents got to talking, we’d spend hours in that hallway, fiddling with the few lego blocks. We’d create spaceships and jungles, factories and armies, and homes, just like the one my grandfather had built that we were playing in.
Partially because a child’s imagination is insatiable, and partially because there was little room to store any more of them in that white drawer, I remember there only ever being a small collection of Legos to play with, maybe two or three dozens blocks at most.
The limitations of being able to build a toy house that stood just half a foot tall vs one that stood three feet tall was invigorating. Not only did I have to use my creativity to imagine a world to play in with the Legos, I had to really push myself to create a world where it was acceptable for spaceships to only have one wing or for people to function without legs. It was never much of a problem, but it was a challenge for my imagination.
Then, one day, more blocks appeared in the drawer.
I felt joyous at the number of new ideas that swarmed through my mind almost instantly at the sight. More Legos meant more possibilities to create with. While the limitations before were invigorating, having even more blocks allowed me to really create.
Suffice to say, I was never bored at that home.
I wondered then if my grandfather ever felt overwhelmed or constrained when he was building his home. If he ever felt as though just a few more bricks, a few more nails, or a few more sheets of drywall would make it easier to transform the idea in his head into a reality.
His constraints helped fueled his creativity, but so did the bricks and nails that he did have.
Creativity is very much like a drawer full of Lego blocks, where each block represents some experience or some concept that you’ve collected in your life. A block could be a book you’ve read, a conversation you’ve had, something you made when you were younger, a friendship, your job, a movie or TV show, anything.
When you have a drawer with only a few blocks you can do a lot with them, but you’ll have to push yourself and bend some rules, maybe cutting your idea short in order to make it real.
If, on the other hand, you spend time to gather more blocks, to build up your experiences, you’re going to have a lot more to draw from when it comes time to create.
How are you collecting more “Legos” in your life to fuel your creative genius today?
Photo by Pascal.