Reclaim Your Wildly Creative Inner Child
The science and strategies behind reviving the creativity you thought you lost (but didn’t)
Sometimes, your lack of creativity feels overwhelming, like a heavy blanket of snow on the human spirit. And because you don’t feel creative… you don’t act. You feel unworthy of creation.
So you become hesitant.
- Your fingers hover over the laptop keyboard, story unwritten.
- Your paintbrush hovers over a blank canvas, art unborn.
- Your sheet music hovers over your instrument, song unplayed.
I’ve been where you are, and I’m here to tell you there’s hope.
It’s easy to miss the insanely creative child you once were. That kid had so many ideas — so many dreams. None of them made sense, but they were all distinctly beautiful.
As children, we never cared whether our ideas were judged or if our creations were “bad.” We just felt the instinctual, primal need to create and share it with the world… so we did.
What if I told you it’s possible to reclaim some of that creativity?
You Are Creative, And Here’s The Proof
“Everyone has a creative impulse, and has the right to create, and should.”
— Patti Smith
Remember being a kid? Having imaginary friends, creating new games to play, making landscapes from your mashed potatoes, doodling, and having a limitless, wild imagination that painted every moment with wonder?
If you don’t feel creative now, at the very least, you know you were creative.
According to a study done by Dr. George Land and Dr. Beth Harman, 98% of preschoolers are creative geniuses.
No, seriously. Read that again:
98% of preschoolers are creative geniuses.
The pair of doctors created a test for NASA to “effectively measure the creative potential of rocket scientists and engineers” in 1992, and the results of people in different age groups were exactly what you would expect: the older you get, the less creative you are.
Here are the percentages of creativity test-takers who were considered “creative geniuses” by age:
- Preschoolers: 98%
- Grade School: 30%
- High School: 12%
- Adulthood: 2%
The natural conclusion is that as we age, we become less creative. However, does that mean we lose our creativity and it’s dead forever, or is it tucked in the back of our minds for a rainy day?
The answer is bittersweet.
Structure Kills Creativity — Here’s How to Revive Yours
“The creative adult is the child who survived.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin
In Sir Ken Robinson’s viral TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”, he asserts that schools do, in fact, murder the most joyful and artistic pieces of our brains.
This is only further proven by research from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Ph.D. student Yeun Joon Kim and associate professor Chen-Bo Zhong wrote a research paper that states structured knowledge kills creativity, and ideas arise from chaos.
However, there’s great news: your creativity isn’t dead. It’s dormant, waiting to be awoken.
You can increase your creativity, and much of the process has to do with re-learning the way of thinking you’ve already mastered as a child.
Robert Epstein, Ph.D., suggests practicing “routine creativity” in the following four ways:
1. Seek out challenging tasks
Robert Epstein suggests you think about the possible solutions for problems without a “perfect answer.” He suggests, for example, “how to make your dog fly or how to build a perfect model of the brain.”
Here are a few more to jog your noggin:
- How to turn an entire city purple
- How to create the optimal house pet
- How to make a stranger fall in love with another stranger
- How to write a poem using only adjectives/nouns
- How to plan the ultimate party for your favorite celebrity
The point isn’t the end idea — it’s the process of creating ideas. Also, let’s assume that every time you censor yourself, a little creativity angel dies.
You don’t want to murder creativity angels. Just trust me on this one. The life of crime is a slippery slope.
Don’t. Censor. Yourself. (Highlight that. Seriously. Stop letting your amazing ideas die because you judge them before you even know what they are, what they can be.)
2. Broaden your knowledge
People use the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” when referring to self-care, but it also exemplifies creativity.
How can you be creative if you can’t recognize creativity and draw inspiration from it? How can you be creative if you don’t have knowledge and ideas as creativity ammo in your brainstorm sessions?
After all, according to Robert E. Franken’s Human Motivation,
“Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”
Further, the more general knowledge you have, the larger a well you have to draw creative connections and ideas from.
3. Surround yourself with interesting things and people
Epstein says that it’s important to “keep your thoughts lively” and “(do) anything that stimulates new thinking.”
Where the other examples are more proactive ways to reclaim your creativity, this one is more passive. Naturally, the more interesting your life is, the more ideas you’ll be able to gather.
Here are some ideas on living a more interesting life from Lifehack:
- Perform random acts of kindness
- Eat new foods
- Spend time with children
- Learn a new language
- Turn off your TV
4. Capture new ideas
Obvious? Yes. Effective? Incredibly so.
Write your thoughts down — and don’t censor yourself. When searching for creative ideas, you may find that the ideas that are the least “socially appealing” will actually be the most creative.
That is to say: pay attention to those ideas that make your nose scrunch up in disgust. Society taught you that, and we’ve already established that society isn’t a great breeding ground for creativity…so your “stupid” ideas may be your best.
Personally, I never leave the house without a notebook and a pen. If that’s inconvenient, the notes app on your phone is a great alternative. In fact, I never close my notes app, in case I have an idea and need to get it down quickly.
Further, these ideas don’t need to be labeled as “good” or “bad;” creativity is a practice, like anything else. The more ideas you come up with, the more ideas you’ll come up with in the future.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
— Maya Angelou
You are creative. If you don’t feel creative right now, that’s okay, but there is creativity in the marrow of your bones and each beat of your heart.
In fact, you’re more than just creative — as a human being, you exemplify creativity.
For when you feel like the least creative, most cliche person in the world (because we all have those days!), make a mantra to remind yourself of how incredible and full of brilliant ideas you are.
I found this one from Healing Brave; feel free to steal it for when you need a boost.
I was born with creativity written in my heart, and that cannot be erased. I am blessed with a mind that can imagine things that have not yet been seen. Creativity expresses who I am, and what makes me unique makes a difference.
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