There is a saying, “youth is wasted on the young.” I found I’ve changed a lot over the years. As a kid, I would run barefoot in the grass, climb trees on windy days, and tried to make friends with all the wild animals. As an adult, I searched for the perfect boots for hiking, sit in the shade of the trees, and, well, I’m a friend to the wild animals, but I know enough to keep my distance when it counts. What changed me? Life. What didn’t change? My creativity.
According to a 1968 study by scientist George Land, children are naturally creative, but that creativity wanes as we grow older. One might suspect this is because our brains stop growing in our twenties, but that would be incorrect. Although the brain fully develops at age 26, with the completion of the frontal lobe, we always create new neural pathways until the day we die.
No, what stifles the creative spirit are rules, regulations, and the dictates of society. Don’t take that the wrong way; we need some laws to have order and live in safety. We should never say or do something that purposely harms ourselves or others, but we need to be free to express ourselves for creativity to blossom and thrive in our later years.
So how does one keep their creative mind, or find the one from their youth? Practice. Creativity is a skill, one given to us at birth; it just needs to be developed and nurtured. Just like we learned our A, B, C’s, we can learn how to care for our creative spirit.
Nurturing our creative spirit is different than using the creative process. Political scientist and psychologist, Graham Wallas, wrote about the creative process in his 1926 classic, The Art of Thought. He summarized it into four basic stages.
These steps are valuable for anyone wanting to come up with unique ideas, whether that person is an artist, engineer, or corporate president. Unfortunately, we need to practice tapping into our youthful creative minds and feel comfortable expressing them before we can put them to work. So, I’m going to give three simple steps to do just that.
Three E’s for a Creative Mind
Look around at all the wonder the world has to offer. Look at it with a child’s eyes. Strip away all of the mundane adult things you have to deal with in life and relish the naked, raw simplicity.
Get outside and experience nature from every angle. You can do this with a simple camera or smartphone, but a small mirror will work too. Crawl on the ground or climb a tree (safely). Take pictures or look through the mirror from a worm’s point of view, and a bird’s. Break down what you see into shapes and colors, and try to name them. Get your hands dirty—you can wash them later.
Play like a child. Get some coloring books and color any way you want. The world won’t erupt if you color outside the lines. Build with blocks or Lego®, and let your hands and mind grow as one. The laws of physics may limit what you build, but there are no limits in a creative mind.
Take a pottery class or learn to play and instrument. Don’t worry if the art isn’t perfect. Nature is full of imperfections, and it is still amazing. Most importantly, put aside the need to create something for monetary gain or notoriety; that’s what adults do. Create to create.
Show off your creativity. Express yourself. Let all you learned, and love shine forth. Don’t worry about anyone judging you. You are a work in progress, and every stage is the emergence of something beautiful, from the bare canvas to the final layer of paint.
You don’t have to show off your work or let others know what you think. The idea is to feel comfortable in your new creative shoes. If you do feel like showing others but are worried about rejection, you can start small and share with family or close friends that have the same likes.
As the creative mind blooms, you will feel more confident and can shout out to the world like a child laughing out loud. Don’t be nervous. The world is a huge place, and everyone else is shouting too. Even though you feel like you are putting yourself out there, exposing yourself, it can take a while before everyone notices you.
As today’s fortune says, “Express yourself: Don’t hold back!” Nurture your creative mind every day of your life. If you find that your creativity gives you the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.