On Dreams and Creativity: Sir Ken Robinson and My Dad

I am collecting nephews like they’re going out of style. I started my collection in February with Oliver in Baltimore, and this month I added Phero in Kansas City. Nephews are awesome. I highly recommend them, if you can talk your siblings into having kids. And I’m sure nieces are awesome, too; I just don’t have any yet.

All this having-of-nephews this year made my husband and I really start thinking about creativity and dreams, and how important they are, especially in a world that’s changing as fast as ours is. We will have kids someday, too, and while we’re very concerned that they grow up with health care and education and libraries, we also want them to believe in their dreams. We want them to have what we had: the belief that no aspiration was out of our reach.

Nathan likes to sit me down for marathon viewings of TED talks, which is how I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson. This year for Mother’s Day, Nathan and I sent the talk below to Oliver and Phero’s parents, and to our parents. And if you haven’t seen Mr. Robinson speak, I hope you’ll take a minute (or, really, twenty) and watch it, too. It is, apart from being inspiring, HILARIOUS.

Oliver and Phero are lucky kids. They were born into families that prize and encourage creativity and the importance of following dreams, even if they are the kind of dreams that would send normal parents into panic attacks and nightmares of useless liberal arts degrees. I’m pretty sure my father, for instance, had plenty of those nightmares when I told him I wanted to go to school for theatre and literature, when I said I wanted to move to New York and be a playwright, probably even last year when I left my full-time job. I never heard a single word about any of those panic attacks, though. What I did hear from both my mother and father, and from a very early age, was that the most important thing about following your dreams was to be able to imagine yourself achieving them. You had to be able to imagine them in detail, though. You had to be able to imagine, for instance, the work that would go into them, the potential disappointments and derailments along the way, just as well as you could envision success. And you had to be willing to make that dream a part of your life, every day, no matter what.

Shortly after The Boneshaker came out, my dad sent this email to our family mailing list, and I’d like to share it with you.

I was reminded of something my father said once, and I believe it to be true. I think we all knew this when we were young, and some of us vaguely remember it.

If you want something in this life, if you want to be something, if you really want something to happen then you have to make that thought a part of your being.

If you want to be a pilot, you have to think about it all the time, daydream about it, pray about it, imagine yourself actually being a pilot. See yourself inspecting the plane before take-off, imagine yourself climbing the steps to the cockpit, imagine gaining speed as you of the rumble down the strip, feel the G-force as you accelerate into the air and look down as the people and houses get smaller and smaller. Read pilot things. Talk about pilot things. Wear a pilot hat (that’s the part I like best).

And most of all–have fun just daydreaming about being a pilot.

If you do all these things and more–you will become a pilot. I am convinced of the power of it.

The old ones of us must remember to help our children daydream.

Funny old world, isn’t it.

I cannot wait to see what dreams my collection of nephews (and nieces, if I get a few, and offspring, if I get a few) go in search of. The world is a big place, and it needs dreamers.

Happy Friday, everyone.




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