Finding Our Inner Child Through Creativity
Why are children so much more creative than adults? What happens to that creativity as we age?
As a child I loved to draw, paint, and sew. I had a very active imagination and could easily sit and create something without giving it much thought! Once I got into college, I stopped drawing and painting. I’m not sure why but I guess life got in the way and I didn’t really have time or think about it so the talent and desire seemed to fade away -- and it’s challenging to get it back now. Today when I try to write, draw or paint, I struggle with perfection and being judged so it’s much harder for me to get started and create anything than when I was a kid! Before launching the blog site it took me a long time to finally write down topics, develop articles and actually hit the button to go live. My articles may have errors and typos but if I had continued to edit them to death, I never would have gotten over my fear of imperfection and gained the courage to launch. So, I just hit the Publish button to finally get the ball rolling and apologize if there are mistakes.
Both of our kids are very creative and watching them spontaneously sit and create as toddlers up to their current college age, without any plan or hesitation, always fascinates me. They continue to draw or paint when they want to relax or put ideas on paper. I hope they don’t stop utilizing this creative outlet because it’s hard to get back into it once that routine ends! They think outside the box and are always discussing ideas some of which may seem kind of far-fetched but why not think that way? Look at Steve Jobs. He created something we all didn’t even realize we needed at the time and the iPhone has changed our lives on many levels! When people said it can’t be done, he told them to find a way to make it happen!
So back to the question, what happens to creativity when we age?
In 1968, George Land (along with Beth Jarman) conducted a research study to test the creativity of 1,600 children ranging from three-to-five years old. This was the same assessment he developed for NASA to help select innovative engineers and scientists. The test was so successful that he decided to try it on children. He re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age. The test was to look at a problem and come up with new and inventive solutions.
The results were astonishing. The percentage of people who scored at the “Genius Level”, were:
amongst 5 year olds: 98%
amongst 10 year olds: 30%
amongst 15 year olds: 12%
Same test given to 280,000 adults (average age of 31): 2%
According to Land, the primary reason for these results is that there are two types of thinking processes when it comes to creativity. One is divergent — that’s basically subconscious imagination used for generating new ideas and possibilities. The other is called convergent — that’s when you’re consciously making a judgement, testing, criticizing, evaluating, and making a decision. These two thought processes actually work against each other when trying to use them at the same time.
As children get older they eventually start adapting to social norms, learn what works and what doesn’t, and lose the edge they once had to be imaginative. However, we can still use divergent and convergent thinking separately and retain our ability and desire to be creative. We can let our mind run free while coming up with ideas, and afterwards evaluate them and start working on the ideas or solutions we think are the best. Making regular time for creativity produces a type of muscle memory in the brain and the more you practice the more powerful it gets.
Here are some ideas to find the innovation and inspiration you had as a child:
1. Schedule time for creative play and don’t feel guilty about it.
We are all busy adults and it’s hard to schedule “playtime” without feeling guilty. Set aside time for creativity and do it regularly. Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child or something new you want to explore. Be silly and have fun with it. Get messy. Let your imagination run free. Begin a project with no idea if it will succeed or not. Just see where it takes you!
2. Don’t over-analyze your projects.
This is where I struggle and why it’s hard to get started on a project. I overthink everything. I’m a planner and perfectionist. This is something I need to get over when exploring my artistic side. Just create without thinking about it. That’s what children do! There is no incorrect way to create. Our inhibitions get in the way and we need to stop being self-conscious about how good something has to be in order to create. Embrace your own unique ideas, style and talents and put that into your work.
3. Find courage.
When trying something new it can be a little intimidating. Young children are fearless when it comes to expressing themselves. They are not afraid of failing when they pretend or create. Children are having fun. They don’t worry about if their work is perfect. This is when we need to find the courage of our inner child as we start a project and get over any anxieties we may have.
4. Creative brain exercises.
Stimulate the imagination with a few simple brain drills:
· Find items around the house and make a list of other uses for them or how to improve those objects.
· Develop a list of ideas and don’t worry about how crazy they may sound! You will probably find quite a few great ideas in that list.
· Look at a problem (could be simple or complex) and develop a list of innovative solutions.
Whether it’s painting, writing, developing a solution to a problem, designing, or starting another type of project, let’s work on finding our own unique inner child, set aside our fears, release the imagination, have fun, and begin creating! The Silver Lining: Having fun and stimulating our imagination while exploring our creative talents!