Is there an age when people are more creative? Do you believe there is a connection between creativity and age, and is that is keeping you from tackling a project?
I will begin this post by letting you know that I don’t have an answer. I’ve read some information from various sources that have an answer, but I remain unconvinced.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m in the supposedly most creative age group right now, and the idea of what little competitive edge I have as a writer dissipating in the very near future stresses me out.
What Exactly is Creativity?
For the sake of this unhinged screed, creativity is defined as the use of imaginative or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work.
I think the key here is original.
Because I can tell you straight up that it is not easy to have an original idea. And yes, before you hop to the comments section, I know that everything has been done before, and anything I write will be a story that’s been told before.
(And before you sunshiney sweet angel babies hop into the comments, I know that the stories that are out there aren’t the way I’d tell a story, so my story will still be original.)
It takes a lot to be creative, and that means consuming enough other stuff to generate ideas of your own. And you can’t do that when you’re young simply because you haven’t consumed enough.
I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about creativity and age. I think everyone’s knee-jerk reaction is to say they were more creative when they were young. Let me explain why that’s probably not correct.
The Supposed Creativity and Age Connection
Okay. After a very informal poll of people I know, I get the vibe that most of you think that we’re more creative when we’re young.
And maybe in certain ways we are. I think we can all agree that if you don’t know all the limitations that surround you, you can dream like the sky is the limit. You can come up with ideas that an older person who understands the limitations won’t come up with.
But I want you to look at the work you created when you were younger. Was it good? Maybe.
Was it original? Probably not.
Was it basically fan fiction, if not outright fan fiction, using all the stuff your favorite artists created as the source material?
That’s what I thought.
Here’s the deal with being young. You are uninhibited in a way that is conducive to doing creative work. You have more free time. You don’t have a well-honed inner critic telling you that you’re making shit. And you also don’t care about what other people think of you as much.
That doesn’t mean that you are more creative.
It just means that you are more likely to engage in creative pursuits.
Did You Stop Creating When You Got Older?
A little gem I share often on this blog and in my newsletter is the one about how me and my friend, Katie, talk a lot about how much fun it was to write when we were 21.
We’d take our day off, crawl into bed with our laptops, and just write what we assumed would be the next bestselling novel.
But here’s the thing about the work we did then.
LITERALLY NONE OF IT HAS SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY.
We are both writing more than ever now, and actually sharing our work with the world. I mean, have you checked out The Reunion? We both have stories in it.
The stuff we wrote back then?
Stuck on the hard drives of old computers that don’t boot up anymore or in document boxes in the closet.
It was a lot of fun to write back in the day though. And I think it was because we felt like we had the rest of our lives to write. So we could do it however we wanted. We could just dissociate with a laptop for a few hours, and soon, we’d have a chapter written.
But that doesn’t make good work.
And if we’re being honest, everything I wrote at that age was kind of a mishmash of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets whatever epic fantasy I happened to be reading at the time.
It wasn’t original, and it was nothing that I want to be known for.
But damn. I sure did spend a lot of time creating that stuff.
Is it a “Room of One’s Own” Situation?
So, remember when Virginia Woolf said that the reason a lot of women hadn’t written a ton of stuff in the past was because they didn’t always have the time and space to do so?
And if you aren’t giving yourself the time and space you used to give yourself for creative pursuits, it only stands to reason that you aren’t going to feel very creative.
It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know so many people my age that say incredibly dumb shit like, “Oh, I wish I could write all day.” Then they look at me like I’m an asshole.
You literally could. But you spend your days off binge-watching bullshit on Netflix or buying shit you don’t need at TJ Maxx. And yeah. There’s a time and a place to do both those things. But if you want to have free time, you can’t use all your time to do that.
The reason you don’t have time isn’t because I’m a selfish person who spends time writing. It’s because you lack time management skills or the ability to prioritize.
WHO LOOKS LIKE THE ASSHOLE NOW, BRENDA?
So, if you want to write or make movies or draw landscapes or bake fancy-ass cakes or tap dance on various surfaces, you gotta make some time and space for it.
Here’s How You Can Be More Creative, No Matter Your Age
Okay. So. I know this isn’t a “how to” post, but if you’ve come this far and you’re interested in making more space for being a creative person, here’s what I think you should do.
First, schedule it. Let’s stop with the idea that creativity is all spontaneous and off-the-cuff. Sometimes it is, but mostly, it’s doing work with the resources you have when you can do it. And most artists have a day job. I have freelance clients to work around, so let’s not pretend like artists are sitting on a velvet couch eating snacks all day.
We make time for the work we want to do.
Secondly, you have to stop hating yourself so much. I know that every time you sit down to write or draw or paint or dance or whatever it is you do, you’re immediately critical of whatever you’re doing.
Knock that shit off.
The more critical you are, the more you shut down your inner creativity. It’s still there, but it can’t do much if you won’t let it work. So there’s no space for the critic when you’re creating.
And finally, you have to stop with all the “good ol’ days” shit. You sucked at art when you were younger. Maybe you were good for your age, but it’s not like you were doing genius-level shit. And no one was paying you to do it then either, but you made the space for it.
Creativity is about the “good now days.” And that means taking imperfect action and showing up to your work as much as you possibly can and letting yourself actually create.