Rekindling your childhood creativity

Ask anyone and they will tell you: kids have stronger imaginations than us boring adults. They are more creative, they embrace the impossible; when we say “no” they say “why not?”


By Suzanne Szasz, 1915-1997, Photographer (NARA record: 1997309) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When I was a kid, I’d staple or glue a bunch of paper together and make picture books. Often, I didn’t know what I was going to write about til I put pen to paper (or, rather: marker and crayon to paper). I’d think: “Hmm, I think I’m gonna write a book today! Like Roald Dahl!”

Now, as an adult, it takes me a long time to find the confidence to even start writing. I convince myself instead that I have to plan: sketch out my characters, plot out a story arc, find weak spots where things will may through. Paranoid that something will fall through and my audience will point and laugh as a result.

Why do we get less creative? And how do we “re-activate” our childhood creativity? Sam McNerney from Big Think says:

What happens to our innate creativity when we age? Zabelina and Robinson discuss a few reasons. The first is that regions of the frontal cortex – a part of the brain responsible for rule-based behavior – are not fully developed until our teenage years. This means that when we are young our thoughts are free-flowing and without inhibitions. Curiosity, not logic and reason, guides our intellectual musings. The second is that current educational practices discourage creativity.

As a means to compromise childlike creativity and adultlike realism, McNerney mentions artist Dave Devries, who turns kids’ monster doodles into professional, digital paintings with realistic shading.


From Devries’ online gallery.

So raw, unhindered creativity isn’t the be-all. Adult knowledge and acquired skill has its uses.

What I think we need to learn to do at times of creation is shut off the part of our brain that judges us with a headmistress’ voice. At least in the first stage. In the beginning, you should just be concerned with creating, nothing more. If that means creating something totally shitty, do it. Along with peacocks and cherry-blossom trees, God created slugs and hairless cats too, right?

We need to stop judging ourselves. Yes, now we have co-workers, bosses, workshop buddies, classmates, and potential significant others to impress. Gone are the days when any doodle on Mother’s Day earns you worship. But we can’t begin to produce our best work without from somewhere, so we have push out everything and anything we can. Then build from there.

I love digging through my old computer files. I’ve got all these crazy stories stored in floppy disks from back in the day. I love looking at all the crazy writing I did as a kid and how ridiculous some of those plotlines were, but now and again I’ll find a useful nugget or two. And hey, who knows? Maybe one of these childhood adventure stories will mature into an adult book.

And if you’re still stuck in an adult-rut, remember that it was adults that made this video… At least I hope it was adults.


One thought on “Rekindling your childhood creativity

  1. I really like that childhood/professional drawing comparison.
    Creativity: technical and free roaming imagination. How do we develop them so they grow side by side?

    I once thought I wasn’t good enough and threw away most of all my childhood writing that I had saved. Somehow I thought if I threw away all the bad writing I would never have written it but that is a childish thought. Everything thing we think and write makes it into our writing. Now I’m left with a few journals that chronicle how I might have been criticizing myself too much at the time. If you stagnate too long, it’s easy to see your faults and give up, if you don’t stop at all you might overlook your flaws. As my friend says, I should have kept them because if you throw old work away you can’t show your children-you can’t rethink things the same way. But you CAN think them up in fresh ways, like that drawing. So, maybe they aren’t lost. 😉


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