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Sparks from Sadness

Posted by on August 12th, 2014 with 3 Comments

Words and ideas can change the world.

The interwebs are awash today with sadness, as the news of Robin Williams’ death reaches into our thoughts.

It feels like yet another creative genius has lost the battle against their own creative genius.

For he is not the first to lose this battle, nor will he be the last. If it’s not suicide, it’s drugs or alcohol. Or running off a cliff in a fast car. Or a premature death from some terrible stress-related disease.

Our creatives are the people who inspire us to be our best, move society forward, make life worth living. And yet we’re not very good at looking after them, are we?

The budding creative is made to sit still in dull classrooms. They are told off for daydreaming or fidgeting, and ostracised for having a different opinion or doing things their own way.

We discourage our boys from pursuing the arts by calling them names, or directing all our devotion to our modern warriors – our sporting heroes. We send constant messages to our girls that their value is in their appearance rather than their brains.

We tell our creative children that they will never amount to anything, that they can never make a decent living as an artist, a dancer, an actor, a musician, a writer – despite the fact that some of the top earners in the world make their living from these pursuits; that they would be better studying law, medicine, accounting or welding. We learned how well that worked in Dead Poet’s Society!

We dull their thinking with video games and mindless TV shows. We prevent them from going out exploring the world, by keeping them close, safe, indoors – where we can keep an eye on them.

We snuff out their sparks… long before they ever have the chance to ignite into bright, beautiful flames.

It is those rare flames, who survive their childhood and take their creative genius into adulthood, who are then subject to all the pressures of fame and success. Suddenly the outsiders are the cool kids, and they are not at all prepared.

The truth is – most creative people actually do feel more deeply. They see things more vividly, hear more intensely. They understand the enormities of life and they experience it intensely and personally – and it is this different view of the world that feeds their creativity. Sometimes this intensity becomes really hard to manage. It is no wonder they succumb to drugs, alcohol, depression.

Although today we mourn one of our greatest and much loved creative spirits, much good has already come from his death. Discussions about depression and suicide prevention have filled the internet today. They are important conversations to have. Every life is precious.

However, long before they are old enough to contemplate such dark thoughts, our kids develop their opinions of themselves that shape their future. From the moment they are born, they receive messages about how to act, who to be, what we value in our families and our society. Sure, life will send a lot of stuff their way, good and bad, over which we have zero influence, but there’s a lot we as parents do to help, or hinder, their life journey.

Every child has a spark. Every spark is precious and deserves to be nurtured.

We need to recognise, understand and nurture all our kids’ sparks, and equip them with the life skills and support they need to develop their sparks. They need this support throughout their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, as they seek the work they were born to do and their unique place in humanity.

Some kids have the spark of creative genius. It is a very rare and special gift – for it has the power to change the world. We need these kids more than ever to grow up into strong, influential, balanced adults – for it is they who will find the solutions to the world’s greatest problems, who will encourage us to think, who will remind us of the sheer beauty of life and will bring us the greatest joy.

But in an age of standardised testing, psychological labelling, technological infiltration of everyday life and over-protective parenting, this is so hard. Believe me, I know!!!

Someone needs to stand up and advocate for our creative kids, to support the parents who are raising them, to help nurture these most delicate of sparks.

This means helping them manage their intensity while it is still child-sized, giving them the freedom to explore their ideas, exposing them to new experiences, feeding their curiosity, ensuring they grow up comfortable in their skin and inspiring them to share their incredible gift.

Today it hit me – this is what The Kid Spark Project really is. What I am being called to do. And it’s freaking scary! It will take a fair bit of wobbly courage to make this happen – to gather my thoughts, my years of research and my team of potential collaborators, and pull it into something that will help nurture the sparks in all of our kids – but especially our most creative ones.

Thank you Mr Williams… I am ready to seize the day.

Image: – I hope they let me keep it!


  1. […] from my lovely friend, Kelly Exeter, came through late the other night, after I shared with her my post about Robin Williams that she had inadvertently inspired. These little words of encouragement helped me gather a that […]

  2. Jennie Lamond says:

    You are just the person to do this Cath. Watched Dead Poet’s Society tonight and had the conversation with my other half about just this: nurturing each of our children to develop their sparks and strengths, and help them overcome personality issues that may stand in the way of that. Can’t wait to see how Kid Spark develops.

    • Cath says:

      Thanks Jennie. I watched a few clips from Dead Poets Society the other night too, and realised how big an impact on my life that movie had made. Stay tuned!

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Hi, I’m Cath

Cath Connell

Creating my amazing life one tiny moment at a time. Bringing the Hubby, a Munchkin and about a dozen tomato plants along for the ride.

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