The Best Teachers of Creativity

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
-Pablo Picasso

Throughout the years, there have been many differing views on what the definition of creativity truly is. Albert Einstein, who has come to be known for having the greatest hairstyle of all time, once proclaimed that “creativity is intelligence having fun”. It should be noted that the physician is also known for his quote about the inability for fish to climb trees; his view on intelligence was that it was not solely based on a person being exceptionally skilled at everything, but rather that “the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” In short, Einstein believed that all human beings who have the ability to inventively imagine things are intelligent and creative creatures.

When we were children, our imagination was a vivid and warm home to us. We made friends, created worlds, and slayed dragons in it. It was a second nature to create things, whether it was an imaginary best friend, or an arch nemesis that needed to be defeated. Interestingly, numerous psychological studies have found that our childhood is the period of our lives where we are the most creative. Although our brain power typically develops as we grow, our creativity seems to get lost amidst all the knowledge about the world we obtain along the way.

Why are our child selves inherently more creative? The answer, perhaps, lies in the way children think. Or rather, the way children don’t think. Consider a young child not yet familiar with the world’s cruelty or the concept of cynicism. This child will ask questions, and look at a small army of ants in wonder, because she is curious and ignorant. Although ignorance is generally referred to with a negative connotation, in this case it is advantageous for the child. She will be too ignorant to realise how much she doesn’t know, and this is the key to her creativity. She is not self-conscious in her curiosity of the world; she questions anything and everything without feeling fear of being judged.

Another example is of a child drawing a messy picture of what he claims is a dragon. The child in question does not know that dragons don’t exist, nor does he know that he cannot draw well. He is not concerned by the judgement and ridicule of others, simply because he is not aware of it. Creativity comes from the notion that anything is possible, and a child’s mind is not yet ingrained with the mindset that there are no dragons in existence and that some people are better at drawing than others. The intention of the child is completely pure - money, influence and fame do not motivate him, his desire to create does.

A kid’s drawing that I picked up from here

The sad reality is that most children of the boy’s kind will grow up to never draw again. They will turn their dreams of becoming fire-breathing dragons into ones related to having a better quality of life, or a perfect wife, or success and fame. These are perfectly reasonable and understandable dreams- adults are forced to face the dull facets of life and the responsibility that comes with independence, and days spent dreaming rather than doing could easily destroy their working life.

That being said, however, in order to bring something new and original to one’s life, whether it be something as small as a customised birthday gift or something as big as an idea for a novel, one must think as a child would. A child would not try to minimise the amount of effort required for the task, or wonder whether the idea would be profitable and would allow a person to gain recognition and respect. A child does not know to think in such ways, but rather does or creates things due to a personal drive and determination to do so. If we all truly took time out of our cynical thoughts to venture into our childish ones, we would probably be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Truly embracing our childish side might allow us not only to become more creative in our ideas, but also allow us to perceive the world in a different way. A child’s mind gives us a lot of insight and perspective. They don’t see people by their skin colour or books and movies by their ratings. The eradication of social and commercial influence would provide an ample space for creative and unique thought.

The next time we encounter a young mind, rather than patronizing or belittling them, we should perhaps listen and look a little more closely. Ironically, there are some things in life that can only be taught by the ones that need to be taught the most.