Creativity can be defined as, our ability to use our imagination to create something. When we are creative we invent, think for ourselves, use our intuition and explore. It is a state where we can throw off thoughts that restrict, confine or limit our ability to think freely.
An active creative mind may more than offset the natural aging process and help us remain alert, sharp and intelligent as we grow older. It becomes a way that we engage in life.
In 2001, the National Endowment for the Arts and The George Washington University measured the impact of Creativity and Aging. Results reveal strikingly positive differences between those involved in art programs, compared to a control group. Those involved in the weekly art programs reported: better health, fewer doctor visits, less medication usage, more positive responses on the mental health measures; more involvement in overall activities over a two year period.
We have been through huge changes in the last 50 years. One of those is that we are allegedly becoming less creative. Not so long ago, it was common for people to cook, knit, sow, paint, sketch, play a musical instrument, write poetry, keep a journal, garden, arrange flowers and decorate.
Studying 300,000 creativity tests, over the last 40 years, Kyung Hee Kim, a researcher at the College of William and Mary, found creativity has decreased among American children since 1990. Children have become less able to produce unique and unusual ideas, as well as being, less imaginative.
It may be that creativity as a child is significant as our creativity is claimed to decrease from the age of about five, when, we are using about 80% of our creative potential. By the age of twelve, some people’s creative output has allegedly declined to about 2% of their potential (Runco 2007), and it may stay there for the rest of our lives as we become more functional, valuing memory, knowledge and content over the process of creative thinking. Perhaps creativity evaporates as we move from living out of questions to thinking we have the answers.
Conversely, Harvey Lehman published Age and Achievement, in 1953 where he drew on an enormous amount of evidence to create an age distribution for important achievements in dozens of activities, and used these distributions to identify “the maximum average rate of highly superior production.” So, for example, he concluded that the most productive ages were 32-36 for painters, 26-31 for lyric poets, 40- 44 for novelists and 35-39 for movie directors. So we might be able to enhance and develop creativity with encouragement and support, or with desire and passion.
There is the risk that creativity atrophies when we do not use it. We may become creatively weak. Do we then become spectators of life, consuming other people’s creativity, rather than engaged in the creative art of living?
One of the interesting repercussions is that we move from a mind full of our own original ideas towards a brain that is essentially filled with other people’s beliefs.
The good news is that it is never too late. Just as we can take up yoga, swimming, tai chi and other pursuits to exercise and tone our bodies, so can we take up creative activities to exercise our minds. We can enjoy courses on a wide variety of creative subjects including painting, creative writing, and photography. We can still learn how to play a musical instrument, make a film, take up photography and a wide array of absorbing potentially creative activities.
The result of this is that we may find that we are enjoyably developing ourselves, that we evolve new ways to express ourselves. Out of this we may discover more of that original self, deep inside.
Ultimately we open up a flow of energy that enters us in the form of inspiration, wonder and appreciation. We can then transform this creatively into imprints we would like to leave on our planet.
We can become part of a constructive, supportive, creative community. We can encourage, inspire, empower, embrace and accept as we join each other in sharing our creativity. Sometimes this might be as simple as being creative in the kitchen, feeling creative around our homes, or collecting some flowers, stones and sticks for an, in the moment, arrangement.
Perhaps the big question is how many restrictions can we let go of? To what extent can we let go of the right and wrongs, the self-limiting beliefs, and the negativity that can imprison us from spreading our wings and taking on something new? Could we eventually find that we develop a more flexible, imaginative, creative mind, keen to observe, explore and question? If so, how would this change the way we work, our relationships and enjoyment of life?
SIMON’S SUGGESTIONS FOR BEING CREATIVE
- Try very simple short regular meditations. For example just feel each breath for a minute.
- Become sensorial. Try being aware of each of our five senses. Drinking a cup of tea allows us to engage all five senses by listening to the sound of pouring the tea, watching the steam rise, feeling the warmth of the cup, smelling the fragrance and tasting the tea.
- Live out of questions rather than answers. Rekindle our natural youthful curiosity.
- Develop a beginners mind. Try to imagine you are doing things for the first time. Let go of assumptions, expectations and presumptions. See if you can initiate actions from a relatively empty mind.
- Be able to suspend beliefs. We can experiment with letting go of our beliefs and see what other new possibilities arise.
- Open up to new possibilities. By opening our minds we can embrace new and different possibilities to play with. Sometimes we might experience profound revelations of our own.
There are no mistakes. Let yourself be free and enjoy the process. Free yourself from expectations about the results of your creativity.