Creative Launch Pad | The Little House

Last outpost before the alley, The Little House was a center of creative life (or shall we call it play here, I sometimes can’t distinguish) for me and much of the old neighborhood. It was simply a great place to launch our many adventures.

It was a safe place to launch.

Funny how lessons from childhood get learned so well you forget there was a time before you knew them.

My dad did the building back in 1966 based on a simple plan found in the always inspiring Better Homes and Gardens. A kid size A-Frame with porch, ‘bay’ window, screens and furniture.

Even as a youngster I was encouraged to help. I was a great help hammering. (Oh how I hammered. Dad would hand me the hammer and a bit of wood and say “Fred, I need you to hammer.” And I would hammer, hammer, hammer. Quite a bit of work would get done while I hammered – elsewhere, of course.)

Comfortable for 4, room for all (phone booth style). Its purpose shifted on a whim. When ideas were short it stood as the starting point without forcing direction.

Play house? Of course.

Neighborhood club, general store, doctor’s office? No problem, why stop there.

It was a guard post marking the boundary between the wilds of the alley and safety of the backyard. A must stop engagement during hide and seek. (Not a good place to hide, but some never learn.) A warming hut during ice-skating.

And around Halloween Witch Hazel made the occasional visit with crystal ball and caldron. (A fact made a tad bit more frightening given the pet birds, gerbils, and rabbits that were buried around back in fine Buster Brown cardboard caskets. Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery really resonated in high school.)

This is going to make me sound stupid, but I just got the Witch Hazel pun. My dad is still cracking me up.

Learning Personal Creativity

I’ve learned to rely on three basic sources of creativity over the years. Needed, Structured, and Serendipitous. When all three are in balance ideas seem to flow more easily, each source reinforcing the other. Looking back on my childhood I think I started to learn the balance around The Little House.

  • Needed: The source for much creativity. The need to get something done, to be entertained, to simplify. It gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s the reason the creative muse comes looking.
  • Structured: Patterns can make creativity easier. Routines create space for ideas. Deadlines fight procrastination. Structured simply makes sure the creative muse knows where to find you.
  • Serendipitous: The magic that most people focus on. The idea out of the blue. The random connection that changes your world. The muse hits you along side the head.

The first two sources are the work that prepares you for the serendipitous event. Having safe-spaces can help create the balance. Can be a launching pad.

The Little House was one of my launching pads as a kid. When the conversation in the middle of summer would turn to:

“What do you want to do?”

“No, what do you want to do?”

“I asked first….”

The little house was one of the places we could wander to and build a fun afternoon from.

It was like a permanent cardboard box waiting to be opened.

Today my safe spaces and launching pads are a bit different. They’ve evolved beyond place to include people, routines, and even a touch of enforced randomness. But they serve the same purpose. Places to start from. Places where the creative muse knows to find me.

Writing has become one of those structures that drives creative connections. It enforces the balance between need, structure and serendipity. Over the years I’ve been surprised at how regularly forcing my sometimes random thoughts onto a page can prompt ideas to evolve in very useful ways. For example this post developed from the serendipitous connection between the “How Do You Write To Learn” subject at Joyful Jubilant Learning and a recent re-connect with a few of the old neighborhood friends (Hi Barb, Patty and Steve).

Add a quick walk through my Mom’s amazingly organized photo albums and I suddenly remember that my parents taught me the fundamentals of creativity on Grand Opening day at The Little House.

(To which I arrived via The Little Red Car, but that is a story for another day.)

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20 Responses to Creative Launch Pad | The Little House

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Fred, Thank you for sharing this wonderful trip down memory lane. Your Little House looks like the perfect venue for putting a child’s imagination to work. We used to invent makeshift places like that: for instance I remember our grandparents had a walk-in coat closet with a spooky looking arched door. We’d play for hours in there, and I don’t think it was ever the same “room” twice.
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..4 Blog Typography Tips that Do Nothing for SEO =-.

    • Hi Brad, As I’ve been hearing from folks on this post I’ve been reminded that the little house was often a pirate ship, post office and ‘luncheon spot.’ Simple spaces are so much fun, I can imagine a walk in closet being ideal!

  2. Paul C says:

    This is a wonderful post, Fred, which morphs the separate disciplines into one. Insightful for business, arts, science, math, education, writing…. Nurturing creativity boosts productivity, collaboration, enjoyment, and lasting wonder. Thanks.
    .-= Paul C´s last blog ..GPS November Theme: Tumbling Walls =-.

  3. LaVonn says:

    Those of us who consider ourselves creative are the first ones to forget that is is how you live in all the corners of your life that impacts your ability to tap into the creative force. Thanks for this post. Made me think and smile – the perfect combination.

  4. Patty Brennan Hunt says:

    Wow! What a great treat for a Friday morning, lounging around the house on a day off. Perfect time to sit and remember the wonderful feeling of growing up on Hiawatha Avenue. As I listen to my 2 “boys”, one almost 20 and one 16, play a rousing game of XBOX, I am amazed at the difference between the childhood we had and the childhood of my children. They really needed the Little House and The Little Red Car!

    I do hope all Schlegel’s are well, happy, and getting ready for a wonderful
    Thanksgiving. Hugs, and Love to your mom. I can’t wait to hear more from you but also to see the stunning pictures of our youth! We were beauties!

    • Hi Patty, so glad you stopped by. I was surprised how going through my Mom’s photo album for even a few minutes really sent me back. Need to spend more time there. Hard to believe how time has flown or that we both have kids in the last phases of high school and college.

      I haven’t decided which would win in a showdown between xbox and The Little Red Car. It might be closer than we would think.

  5. kay plantes says:

    Thank you for this wonderful treat. A blank page is great for a writer or a day with nothing on the schedule is an alternative for the non-writer. In our rushed world, we’re losing our creativity. Hats off to you for creating structure. Kay
    .-= kay plantes´s last blog ..Without Appeal, You’ll Be Bypassed in the Slow 2010 Economy =-.

  6. Freddie, How you’ve taken the entire Brennan family on a fabulous trip down memory lane! Please tell us that the little house and the little red car are still around!
    Much love to you and yours!

    • Ahhh, well Mary some bad news there. The Little House survived to it’s 40th anniversary but there is only so long even a well cared for play house can last. We got together and took it down (saving a few pieces for old times sake) and Mom has planted a vibrant flowering tree in its place. The Little Car on the other hand is still around, although it’s been a while since we’ve been able to get it to start properly. Needs some good mechanical work. I guess the lesson here is plywood doesn’t last, but good memories are forever. It’s so good to be hearing from so many Brennans!

  7. J.D. Meier says:

    I think everybody needs a fort or little house. It’s the stuff dreams and adventures are made from. Even bed forts can be OK. At the end of the day, tree-forts will always be my favorite.

    Your little house rocks.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Balance Connection and Conviction to Reduce Anxiety and Lead Effectively =-.

  8. Joanna Young says:

    Fred, this is so rich with ideas, memories, creativity, thank you. I love the way you’ve made the connection with writing too – how that can be our little house, if we let it. Cheers 🙂

  9. Diana says:

    Aww Fred, I knew there was some reason I like you (besides your blog). What a great childhood story. Your dad did good by you.

    I am going to try to take the advice you give above about balance and see if I can get some flow moving again. My studio is lonely. Need, structure, serendipity. Great way to put it.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..A prisoner of the Commonwealth of Virginia =-.

    • Hi Diana, Lonely? With all those beautiful pieces? Hmm. Structure can be a frustrating thing, but I can tell you I’ve found that forcing myself to bully through when I’m stuck and get an idea expressed at the very least breaks the log jam. The work done may be headed for the trash, but then at least it’s not in the way anymore so something better may come. At times the trash can becomes quite full. Quite depressing, however, I’ve come to look upon a full trash can as kindling. There’s an idea there somewhere. Light a match, brown a few marshmallows. Life heats up. Something sparks. Keep your spirits high 🙂

      • Diana says:

        Well Fred, I should clarify. Some of my works are in a little shop about 90 miles from here waiting to be adopted. Some are from time to time. When sales (adoptions) are slow, I lose momentum or heart, or something.

        So today, when I read this warm and encouraging post, I went into my lonely studio and packed some older, beloved sources of inspiration away and brought out (only) one bright thing that formerly had no place to hang. This thing had been under my bed for 6 years. As I worked to hang this thing over my desk, I felt a longing to work with my beads and my tools. I miss them.

        I found your idea of a safe space very comforting. For me, that has to be the space we create in just for ourselves—no other reason. So you have already helped me recover the desire to go work, which for me is also play.
        .-= Diana´s last blog ..A prisoner of the Commonwealth of Virginia =-.

  10. Thank you J.D., Joanna, Bollinger, Bok and Diana. Kind words from kind people!

  11. Pingback: Planning for Serendipity – Taking Flight | Frog Blog