I’d hear people talk about how kids are “so creative,” and how adults just aren’t anymore. I even heard them say “scientific studies have shown” that it’s true. It scared the shit out of me that one day I might lose the magic of the world I loved, that one day it wouldn’t welcome me back, because I would outgrow it. I also had a more reasonable fear, of losing my young perspective. I wanted to write about teens while I was one, and wouldn’t have to work so hard to remember what it was like to be that age. I did my best to prepare for that, and kept a journal, which did help. But the idea of losing my creativity was horrifying and I didn’t know what to do with it.
Now, looking at it from the perspective of a thirty-year-old lady, well… The idea of our creativity declining with age is honestly kind of ridiculous. Back then I had an underdeveloped world that I knew was underdeveloped, but I had no idea what to do about it. The Eastern realm has it’s share of magical places, but now that I’m writing the next section of the series, the Southern realm has so much more. It’s so much easier now to create that magic, almost like experience in my craft has actually made me better, and not worse. Almost like gaining more life experience and emotional maturity has given my characters more depth. Hm. What a weird idea.
Also, the word “creativity” is almost too broad to define. Some scientific studies may have shown that adults are less creative in experiments about creative problem solving, because we get into habits, “know” what works for us, and are less likely to approach a problem in new ways. Okay, but that's just one facet of creativity. I only care about my brain’s capacity to grow my world, which is a totally different skill set.
On a slight tangent: Creative problem solving is probably the least creative aspect of creativity itself, if that makes any sense. It just looks at how to solve real-world problems. What about actually creating something new? I understand we measure it because it's more measurable than other types of creativity, but we should really think about what it means. Just because you're not a good creative problem-solver doesn't mean you're not creative.
I understand why I hear “kids are so creative!” so often. But they kind of have to be. They’re in school. Not only does their academic success depend on creativity, their sanity depends on it too. They have to be intellectually and emotionally creative, and they practice these skills constantly, whether they know it or not.
Creativity may start to fade when we no longer “need” those skills, or when we no longer make time for them. But that means it’s not “age” affecting our creativity, it’s practice.
According to a quick Google search, we’re at our most creative age in our mid to late thirties or early forties, which is way later than I thought. Because of the way we talk about kids, I thought by the time I was twenty-five I'd have nothing left. Now I'm finding out I haven't even peaked yet? Damn.
It's been nice to be able to give that fear a reality check. It was just this bizarre narrative about children being the ultimate imaginative beings that threw me. But we don’t stop learning just because school is over. I’m not about to lose touch with a world that is literally me just because some time has passed. And I’m not somehow worse off creatively now that I’m older, I’m actually a better writer now than I’ve ever been.