“Creativity is a river. It has its slow parts and its fast parts. It’s always flowing. (pause) And, I’m beginning to figure out how to stay in my water.” These words were spoken last Friday by an eleven-year-old artist at a Theater of Inclusion week-long day camp. The camp is designed to be an arts challenge course focused on creative and collaborative risk-taking.

I used the river metaphor early in the week as a way to guide the young artists toward an awareness of the creative process as a continuously active part of their daily lives. The art making that most interests Rebecca and I involves practical communication skills and simple methods of making things that can be sustained as we live our multi-tasking lives. We’re all busy today. And it is important for creativity to be cultivated as a steady companion to our thoughts and actions. This is true for the most powerful executives rethinking the brand of their companies to the seemingly less powerful little kids grinding out a recent post on Instagram.

We love the idea that making something serves its own creative purpose – and contributes to the flow of shared ideas. Our practice is both solo and social. Studio production and public discourse are two hands with their fingers intertwined. Folks change the world by making things together. And each person at the table is needed not just for building consensus but for her/his unique thinking and evolving skills. We never know what we are missing out on when everybody doesn’t show up with a solid history of listening to themselves. Yes, we need to explore best practices but I’d urge us all to stay open to our own emergent best thoughts. Just jot them down or make a quick sketch – that’s all.

The creative river made sense to the young artists in the camp and each of them returned to the concept throughout the week. They came to the idea from a variety of perspectives. Each of them made it their own. Another artist-camper said, “I’m learning that my creativity doesn’t go away when I stop drawing or writing. I think it just keeps on going, all the time, inside my brain. This isn’t scary.” And this really is the place to focus on. The quality of our littlest thoughts and the tentative connections we make between our ideas is the center of our work – work that belongs to every single one of us.