Why do we lose our creativity when we grow up?

Have you ever watched small children play? I’m always astounded by their imaginations and creative ideas. We’ve all been creative as children, but why or how do we lose this creativity?

Recently I listened to a talk by Eckhard Tolle called “The Journey within”. In his talk he says that creativity doesn’t come from thought but from a place of stillness. I tested this theory by asking my wife, who is the most creative person I know ,what happens just before she gets a creative idea. After a brief moment of silence she said in her metaphoric way of speaking, “There is stillness. It’s like the wind dies down and there is this moment of utter quiet and then the creative ideas come like a cloud burst. First just one large drop falls into the dry sand then it is followed by this shower of creativity.” “What is the wind?” I asked. “Its thoughts” she replies. I concluded that Eckhard is right. A creative idea isn’t a thought that you manufacture in your mind by trying really hard. The term “creative thinking” is therefore an oxymoron. Isn’t it unfortunate that school only taught us to think and not to be creative by not thinking?

It is also crutial that you trust your own creativity. All people are creative; we just lose it over time. The good news is we can reclaim it. The first step is to be still, and trust. Improv helps one to do this. A great improv game that helps to develop this trust in one’s own creativity is called Freeze Tag. In this game 2 people start a scene. At any moment anyone else can say freeze and tap out one of the players. He/she then takes that player’s position and starts a new scene in a completely new context justifying the position. A variation of this game is called Pimp Freeze Tag. In the variation an outside person calls freeze and tell the participants who should go in and replace another player. This way you don’t have time to think about what you want to do. You just have to trust yourself and see what arises. Participants in my improv class often comment that it is easier to come up with something good if they didn’t have time to think about it.

The next step is to trust the other player that they will take your creativity and do something with it – accept it and build on it (“yes and” it). I believe that the reason why we are afraid to trust our own creativity is because we are so use to other people rejecting our creativity and not accepting it. We all know how much rejection hurts. For most people it is not worth taking that risk anymore, so they label themselves as uncreative to protect themselves from rejection.

Now it’s your turn. Become still. Focus on the sounds around you. Become aware of your breathing. Write down in a comment below what arises.

4 Replies to “Why do we lose our creativity when we grow up?”

  1. Hi Burgert,

    This is so true and yet I still don’t give myself the space to meditate. Lately I’ve been finding that my best ideas for poems come when I just get off a flight and I’m walking into domestic arrivals. I’ve actually stopped and writted down ideas on till slips! Reading your article, I realised that it’s because a flight is a time where I can’t do anything else but be still in my seat. Rather an expensive option for creative stimulus though!

  2. The fact that 5 people “like this” but nobody wrote down any thoughts that arose, could be seen as a proof to your theory that we are scared of rejection…

  3. Hi Burgert
    My most creative ideas come when I am waking in the morning, my brain is in neutral and I am not thinking of anything in particular – all of a sudden the ideas start popping. I have a similar experience while shaving or in the shower.
    On the other hand if I sit down with pen and paper to find a solution for a problem I usually do not have much success.
    It would appear that forcing the brain to perform in a certain way is counterproductive. Giving the brain freedom to perform seems to be the recipe for success.

  4. Hi Wendel
    Thank you for your reply. Its true what you say about getting your best ideas when you’re not trying to think up an idea but rather when your brain is “silent”. At last year’s Creativity Conference Ken Wall mentioned that they have done research and found that most people got their best ideas in the shower. Companies should therefore have showers in their offices if they want their employees to be more creative :-).

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