I’ve been thinking about want. As in the verb. I think it’s become a dirty word. There’s a lot of guilt around it, in the “first world problems” sense. We feel bad for wanting things, especially when there are people in the world who want basic things like shelter and food. We feel we should be content with our lot, but it’s a natural impulse.
I will never forget watching a voice and speech teacher in college demonstrate how we lose our voices at an early age, how we learn to swallow what we want and be socially acceptable. She illustrated with a scene with a two or three year old screaming because they want a cookie. But they get smacked for screaming and told to ask nicely. The child asks in a small voice, swallowing the magnitude of the desire and the instinct to loudly proclaim that desire, and is rewarded with a cookie.
When we stifle our desires for things and deny ourselves it chokes us, or a part of us. I’ve seen it manifest as hoarding of things later in life. As adults want is a useful thing, like jealousy. It clues us in to curiosity. As Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Big Magic, it asks us look closer at something.
In my experience, oddly enough, the thing we want is often not what we want at all. Just a clue. For example, you see a model wearing a flowering white dress in the sunshine on a rooftop in Greece. You want the dress. But when you try it on you don’t like it. Why? Perhaps because what you really want is to go to Greece. Or the feeling of freedom the image conjured. A lot of the time it’s a feeling we’re after rather than the thing itself.
It's important to pay attention to want when it comes to creativity, stifle it and you can end up stifling your creativity, but also when it comes to life. Want is a part of us. Trying to get rid of it makes us less whole, which makes living our lives harder. Give yourself permission to want and see where it leads.
Photo by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby