Frustration Produces Creativity

When are you the most creative? When everything is going along splendidly with neither a care nor a worry in the world? Or when you have been frustrated in satisfying your wants and desires?

After I had Caleb, I was frustrated, because I didn’t want to give him over to a day care for 9+ hours a day. But I needed that office job right? I didn’t have a choice, right? Well, I made my own choice. I quit, and started delivering newspapers, then I became a live-in nanny, then a live-out nanny, then I started making wooden toys and selling them. My frustration with the way things were led me to create my own options.

Later when I needed to find a place to live, I was frustrated, because I didn’t have the money to rent anything near where I lived at the time. I could have gotten a second job (in addition to the one I already had and the toy making business that I had just started), and maybe that would have pushed me over the income hump to afford a place-as long as I didn’t want to eat too much or sleep much or play with my son much.

My frustration led me to remember a book that I had read about a woman who-rather than put her daughter in day care-decided to live in her car and travel the country. This led me to research van-living (I tried sleeping in my car once, and it was NOT a comfortable experience), and I found a whole community of people that have turned their backs on traditional living arrangements. I bought a van and headed south.

My frustration with the limitations of van-living, sent me on a search (via craigslist) to find the cheapest place near the east coast to buy or rent a house or apartment. Craigslist pointed me in the direction of the West Virginia panhandle, and via the internet, I found a 3 bedroom house for just $4,000!

Frustration creates the friction needed to start the fire of creativity. Children are the same way. Parenting gurus are fond of telling us that children need limits and frustrations to grow, but frustrations come from many different sources. There are the frustrations that come from real life, and then there are the frustrations imposed of kids by parents, schools, and society.

If I get frustrated with my lack of money, I will get creative finding ways to make more. But if someone in authority keeps taking my money every time I get it, I’m liable to just give up.   There are frustrations that produce growth, and there are frustrations that sap the will.

Life is frustrating enough, there is no need for us to go imposing irritations upon our children. But formula, frustration leads to creativity, reminds us that we shouldn’t go around micromanaging our children’s lives so nothing will bother them.

Parents in general, but in particular homeschooling parents (ones that do forced lessons), are fond using this principle to further their own ends. They want children that play musical instruments, so they force their children to take music lessons in order to “better” them. After all, if they are frustrated, they are just learning how to deal with life, right?

Wrong. As an adult, if I wanted to learn how to play the violin, I would learn as much or as little as I wanted. If I felt like quitting, I might talk it over with someone I respected. They might then encourage me not to give up and remind me of my progress and how I enjoy playing. They might suggest taking a break from training hard and just play for fun for a while or learning a new type of music. And if I really liked playing, I would probably take one of their suggestions, but if I hated it, I wouldn’t.

A kid doesn’t have the option of considering his options in some families. He has to take piano lessons. He has to go to school. He has to go to camp in the summer. In cases like these, frustration doesn’t lead him to find something else to do or a way to rekindle his love of the piano or learning. Frustration leads to creativity, but their creativity is channelled towards avoiding the imposed task.

Remember being a kid? You could find 20 different reasons why you couldn’t practice the piano right now. You spent more time thinking about excuses for not having your homework done than it would have actually taken to do it. Wouldn’t you rather they spend their energy doing things they actually want to do, to accomplish their own goals?

I agree that we shouldn’t go out of our way to make life easy for our kids, but I also believe that we shouldn’t go out of our way to make life frustrating for them as well. If someone is thwarting your free will, you will try to find ways around them, but you will also take out your frustration on the person that is doing this to you–as so many teenagers do to their parents.


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