Saturday, May 20, 2017

Book Review: Think Like a Five-Year-Old

I'm always struck by how easily I grow discouraged in my creative endeavors. Writing is a lonely occupation. Success in writing is often elusive. I too frequently find myself praying, "God, do you just want me to give up on my writing dreams, since they seem so unproductive?" It is in moments like these that I rely on books like Think Like a Five-Year-Old: Reclaim Your Wonder and Create Great Things. Thank goodness for writers like Len Wilson, who understand my dilemmas and speak encouragement to my doubt.

The focus of this book emphasizes the budding creativity found in young children. As I read the passage about the fourth-grade slump, and how creativity begins to taper off, my own fourth-grader was reading next to me and I had to share some of the insights. He agreed wholeheartedly with the theory and gave his own perspective on why kids begin to pull back, squelch their own ideas, and lose the freedom to express their creativity. It is, apparently, a universal trend and one every writer/artist, indeed, every individual should fight.

As Wilson observes in the preface, "We're made to be creative. When we, as an image of God, exercise our heavenly impulse, the result of our expression, regardless of our field of endeavor, is art.... The problem is that while we have this supernatural power, this creative wellspring, within us, we've lost it." Wilson prescribes a method for countering the lies we tell ourselves that steal our creativity out from under us. As he quotes Madeleine L'Engle, "God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling." He encourages creatives to approach our process with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29-30) and he offers up stories of individuals who have done just that.

I loved how his insights always lead the creative individual back to the source of creativity, God. Wilson comments, "The counterintuitive trick is to surrender our passion, which come from God anyway, back to God and then wait." We cannot gaze at our navels and worry about the productivity of our endeavors. He goes on to say, "The paradox of creativity is that, to the Christ follower, personal fulfillment is a misnomer. A focus on fulfillment belies the truth that when we focus on ourselves, we'll never find ourselves. Our passions exist for a greater purpose than our own fulfillment."

For any reader who is stymied by discouragement or ennui in their creative ventures, Wilson will spur you on to reclaim the innocent wonder of childhood and pursue your talents and gifts without the baggage of lowered expectations, self-glory, or control. He provides an excellent source of renewed encouragement. He turns the focus on God's purposes and reminds the reader of who is truly in control. As my son informed me, "a fourth-grader begins to realize how stupid their enthusiasm has looked and they pull back in fear." Don't let that process rob you of your gifts! Respond with the enthusiasm of an uninhibited child and give your gift back to God to bless Him and others.

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