Without stories what are we really? Storytelling is at the root of so much of our shared culture and it winds its barbs into everything from the stories we ingest actively (be it through books, TV, games or otherwise) to those we ingest passively (advertising and the subtle stories told through design).
Does the capacity and the drive to continue telling stories wane with age? Just ask elder statesmen of the craft like Stephen King, who continues to churn out multiple novels a year well into his eighth decade. The consensus, however, is that he wrote all his best stuff decades ago and that’s probably got more to do with how we view age and creativity than the quality out the output.
Creativity, you see, is a quality that is often associated with youth and the vigour of the young mind. However, as we age, do we become less creative, or can creativity actually flourish with time and lean into experience?
The Creative Youth
Creativity often appears to be at its peak during youth as young minds are full of curios energy and a thirst for the new. This period of life is characterised by a willingness to take risks, explore new ideas, and challenge conventional thinking. Many creative geniuses, from Mozart and Picasso to Steve Jobs, achieved some of their most remarkable work during their younger years.
Of course, one practical reason behind this could be that younger individuals tend to have fewer responsibilities and obligations. They have more free time to pursue their passions, experiment with new concepts, and fully immerse themselves in creative pursuits. The freedom from constraints can lead to groundbreaking innovations and artistic creations.
Young minds also possess a certain fearlessness that’s less bound by established norms and this can lead to groundbreaking and unconventional ideas.
The Midlife Slump?
As we enter middle age, our lives often become more structured and demanding. Careers, families, and other responsibilities can take centre stage, leaving less time and energy for creative pursuits. This stage of life is sometimes referred to as the "midlife slump" or “crisis” and it may seem like creativity is on the decline in this period.
However, creativity is surely not solely determined by age but also by individual circumstances and mindsets. Many people in midlife continue to find creative outlets in their work, hobbies, or even parenting.
In fact, the accumulation of life experiences and expertise that occurs with age can often enhance creativity in certain domains. There is a reason why you’ll find executive creative directors in their 40s and 50s; they have a deeper understanding of their craft and their industry, not to mention so much knowledge.
The Wisdom of Age
As individuals move into their later years, they may experience a shift in the nature of their creativity. While the youthful exuberance and fearlessness may wane, older individuals often bring a different kind of creativity to the table: wisdom.
With age comes a wealth of life experiences, lessons learned, and a deeper understanding of human nature. This wisdom can infuse creative works with profound insights and emotional depth. Artists, writers, and thinkers in their later years often produce some of their most reflective and profound creations.
One of the key aspects of creativity is the ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts. Older individuals, with their broad life experiences, are often better equipped to make these connections. They can draw from a vast reservoir of memories, experiences, and knowledge to create works that resonate on a deep and meaningful level.
How To Stay Creative
While the relationship between age and creativity is complex, can flourish at any age if nurtured and cultivated.
Stay Curious: Cultivate a lifelong curiosity about the world around you. Keep asking questions and seeking new experiences.
Embrace Challenges: Don't shy away from challenges or new opportunities. Overcoming obstacles can lead to creative breakthroughs.
Continue Learning: Never stop learning. Whether it's through formal education, reading, or self-directed exploration, learning fuels creativity.
Keep an Open Mind: Avoid becoming too set in your ways. Keep an open mind and be willing to entertain new ideas and perspectives.
Collaborate: Collaboration with others can be a powerful catalyst for creativity. Different perspectives can lead to innovative solutions.
Practice Creativity: Make creativity a daily habit. Set aside time for creative pursuits, whether it's writing, painting, playing music, or any other form of expression.
Reflect and Self-Discover: Use periods of reflection to gain insight into your own thoughts and feelings. Self-discovery can lead to new creative directions and new ideas. Because it’s never too late to have a great idea, right?