I’m so thrilled to have Jean Van’t Hul on the blog today, answering all my nosy questions. You know Jean from her blog, The Artful Parent, as well as her amazing books. She is an absolutely lovely person, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading her answers as much as I did.
What’s one thing from your childhood that helped spark your creativity?
JEAN :: Freedom. I’d say other things, too, such as creative role models and lack of TV, a minimum of toys, etc, but if I had to choose one, it would be freedom.
My siblings and I had a lot of leeway to roam, explore, and choose our activities. I don’t remember any pressure to do homework, to follow a certain career path, or to think a certain way. I was even allowed to drop out of high school when I said I wanted to learn on my own and to take interesting classes at the community college instead (such as physical anthropology and Russian history).
What’s something you have overcome in your life?
JEAN :: This doesn’t have anything to do with creativity, but the first thing that comes to mind in terms of overcoming something. I had childhood asthma and couldn’t run without wheezing. I outgrew the asthma as a teenager but it wasn’t until after my first year of college that I learned to run. One of my best friends wanted to join the FBI and started training to pass the physical test. I joined her for moral support. We started by alternating running and walking and worked up to full runs. It was hard at first; I had to teach myself to breathe differently and had no stamina, but running is something that I’ve loved since.
Where do you go offline for inspiration?
JEAN :: Nature. Whether it’s a hike in the woods or gardening in my backyard, I always get inspired by nature. There is so much beauty, color, symmetry, and magic in the natural world around us.
What makes you weird?
JEAN :: As a kid, I alternated between wanting to be Laura Ingalls Wilder and wanting to live off the land as a Native American. I kept a journal of all the useful things I would need to know for when I ran away from home and lived in the wilderness on my own in “My Side of the Mountain” style, such as how to trap animals, how to make moccasins, and which plants were edible.
Are creatives more sensitive than other people?
JEAN :: I think anyone who creates something with heart and soul is both extra sensitive to the life around them but also sensitive to the reception of their work.
Do you remember something in your life that you felt squashed your creativity?
JEAN :: I remember many instances of grade school crafts where we received a printable and instructions to cut out the construction paper teddy bear (or whatever) and assemble it a certain way. I don’t recall it “squashing my creativity” per se, just making me critical of school from a young age.
Do you have any quirks/routines/habits that you follow when you work?
JEAN :: I wake up crazy early (like 3 or 4 am sometimes) and write everything out longhand before it ever sees a computer screen. That’s probably got to be considered pretty crazy in this day of digital everything, but I think and write better on paper.
Here are some of my favorite posts from The Artful Parent:
Previous Creative Human Interviews:
Asia Citro from Fun at Home With Kids
Meri Cherry from Meri Cherry