Author Leah Hager Cohen asserts that “‘[c]reativity,’ ‘play,’ ‘imagining,’ and ‘irreverence’ could all be next to each other in a thesaurus” (qtd in Schlack). I would easily have put the first three together, but the fourth is the genius.
When we first try a new skill, the focus is on the technique. I know this is true for me. I recently wanted to try a new crochet stitch, the Tunisian Afghan stitch. I still have to have the pattern directions and Encyclopedia of Crochet near me while I work. And work is the right term. I love to crochet and am excited about learning this new stitch, but my focus is different as I work the yarn than when I am crocheting a scarf or a baby blanket using a pattern I’ve followed many times before. I need to focus on the steps for this stitch. I still feel the creative juices flowing; I still feel the play; I can imagine the finished product as it comes to life little by little in my hands. Yet, I cannot yet be irreverent with this pattern, with this stitch. I still need to follow the pattern step by step. However, with the baby blanket pattern, for example, I can go off book a bit. I can start the project even if I am not sure if I have enough yarn to follow it exactly; I know I can figure a way to change colors or size if I need to.
When my students complain about the grammar rules or the corrections on their papers, or when they notice the peculiarities of particular authors and how these authors break the rules, I tell them that they must know the rules before they can break them. To make the break meaningful, you have to know why you’re breaking the rule.
So, the lesson I gather from Cohen is to remember to color outside the lines. Learning the technique is important. Whether one is crocheting, baking, painting, writing, or whatever creative passion one follows, the technique will always be important–it is the base, the foundation. We need to learn the rules, but then we need to break them meaningfully so that the creative product truly comes from each of us, so that the creative product is a sacred manifestation of its creator. From time to time, we need sacred irreverence.
Schlack, Julie Wittes. “The Writing Life.” Holy Cross Magazine. Summer 2014. 19-23.