Tapping Into Your Creative Inner Child

This fall author / illustrator Lynda Barry has fueled my creative fire. She generously shares her teaching materials and encourages others to follow along with the UW-Madison courses she teaches by sharing her syllabus, exercises, and homework assignments on Tumblr under The Near-Sighted Monkey. Making Comics is her current class, and I’ve been following along.

Much of Lynda’s teaching involves turning off the analytical half of the brain to tap into the creative half of the brain. The goal: Finding my inner child, who fearlessly plays without worrying about whether she is good at drawing or too old to use crayons.

I recently watched my daughter cross the threshold from “I’m an artist” to “All I can draw are stick people.” This experience really made Lynda’s work resonate with me.

As you may already know, I have a very analytical brain that is difficult for me to turn off. Since my MFA graduation, my analytical brain has led to much fiction revision, many new nonfiction pages, structured lesson plans, and planning for a new SCBWI Network. My analytical brain is very productive. It has also caused a drought of new fiction pages, because I’m overthinking the story instead of feeling it and playing creatively.

How can I turn off that analytical brain? By starting a Lynda Barry style journal. The emphasis on What I Did, What I Saw, Quotes I Overheard, and Questions I Have is designed to help you notice the world around you. There is also a drawing / coloring component that taps into your inner creative child.

The first assignment was to trace your handprint, a task many of us did as a child, on the first page of your journal. This is a place to write your name, the date, and assign yourself a writing alias for the semester. It also allows you to see yourself reflected in the page.

My creativity was apparently dying to be released. The simple one-page assignment took over two pages of my journal and became a full color doodle.

The creativity was contagious. My daughter decided to start her own journal. She asked me to draw for her, to get past that “I’m not an artist” barrier, but the picture she described to me was clearly artistic and creative. Her alias as a giraffe was a perfect fit.

Yet the only alias to inspire me was an owl, an animal known for its wise thinking ability. Perhaps my analytical brain hasn’t quite been turned off yet. More drawing and coloring are clearly needed.

About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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