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What Happens to Creativity as We Age? (nytimes.com)
254 points by hvo on Aug 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments



I will turn 45 this year. One of my principles for healthy aging is to make sure I'm learning something new and challenging every year or two.

I live in a fishing town in southeast Alaska, and I bought my first boat about three years ago. I bought a 16-foot boat with an open cabin, and it was an absolutely humbling experience. It feels like everyone here knows how to drive a boat, and sputtering through a harbor trying not to take out a row of motors was a really interesting learning experience. It forced me to be open to any and all feedback from all kinds of people. It forced me to seek out advice and assistance from people outside of my everyday circle of friends and co-workers. It made me pay attention to tides and weather in ways I hadn't needed to before. In short, it made me feel like I was looking at the world with new eyes again.

That experience made me look for experiences every few years that are new enough that I have to see the world as a kid does again. Not in the wide-eyed wonder way, but in a way where I have to learn a whole new skill set. This year it's been learning how to drive a truck with a boat trailer. I thought I knew it intellectually, and I knew what I needed to make the trailer do, but I couldn't figure out how to make the back of the truck go where I needed it to. My neighbor was cracking up as he was helping me, and I think it was bringing him back into the mindset of looking at this kind of task from a beginner's perspective as well.

I have a 6 year old son, and I love sharing these learning experiences with him. I want him to know that adults don't know everything, and that you really can spend your whole life learning new skills.


Awesome. I'm 44 and work in technology. Just started tinkering with hydroponics with my kids (kale and catnip lol). It's completely disorienting, I'm beyond clueless and I love it.

One thing I didn't foresee is that my kids never really get to see me learn something from the ground floor. We're basically peers in this and they can see (for better or worse) how I attack the unknown. It's been fun, our plants are so dead.


Oh, man, boats will humble anyone. I managed to go overboard from mine the first day I had it... had to get fished out by some nearby fisherman, who thought it was hilarious.


No kidding. The basic principles at the place where I sail are:

  * Keep the water out of the boat
  * Keep the people in the boat
  * Don't hit anything
  * If possible look good while doing the previous three
It's harder than it looks.


This is off-topic but I'm learning python and just ordered your book earlier this morning (after reading through glowing reviews on amazon). I remember reading your bio and thought that it was pretty interesting that the author was a school teacher in Alaska!

Very serendipitous reading a comment from you here just now!

What are some other new/similar skills you've dabbled in over the years (if you don't mind me asking)?


That is funny. In no particular order, since college I moved to NYC after living all my life in NH. I circled North America on a bicycle, living outside for 13 months at a time. I moved to Alaska and joined a mountain rescue team, and now I help lead our technical rescue team. I got married and have a kid, and I continue to work with at risk students. Writing a book was a deeply humbling experience as well.

I hope to cross the US by bicycle again when I'm 50 or 60. I want to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. My guess is more will have stayed the same than changed, once you're out on the road.


Did you blog your bicycle experience? I'd love to hear what kind of preparation goes into that. It's all idea that's become appealing lately.


Not OP but just in the spirit of contribution, here is one of my favorite long-distance cycling journals by a (very thrifty) science & engineering geek.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1mr&page_id=1390...


I wrote a book about it:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Alaska-Eric-Matthes/dp/154417596...

Bicycle travel is great. You go slow enough to see everything and meet people you wouldn't through motorized travel, but you go fast enough to cover long distances over a period of weeks or months.


That's awesome! I grew up with boats, and have been around them my whole life (boaters ed was taught along with drivers ed in HS in my town). Keep practicing with the trailer, you'll get it. Just take your time :)

One thing with smaller boats and their trailers is that they can be harder to back up. Larger boat trailers have longer tongues so you can back up with more angle before the trailer starts to lift up. For example, on my current boat I can back the trailer up to a near 90 degrees to the truck.


Photography also teaches you to look at the world differently, in a very literal sense.


Here's my vote for skateboarding. You'll never look at boring old stairs, ledges, and curbs the same.


I'm learning to inline roller skate, in my late thirties. I fell over again today, also humbling.


Same goes for surfing. Your life will start revolving around weather patterns and swell forecasts.


Sadly, I do not surf as much anymore because I can no longer have my life revolve around tides and weather.


Same for free flying, in my case paragliding. You'll start to better understand the weather, clouds, which side of the mountain is on the sunlight (because of thermals), and every small hill is an opportunity for flying, however short..


very true. I spent a few years deep diving into manual film photography, scanning and digital printing. I learned to study photographs upside down to see the geometries. The process logic, chemistry and relevant metrics opened my eyes and helped me appreciate fine photography.

Algorithms are really great foundation for learning anything. I prefer outcome goals driving new learning experiences.

My latest project is optimizing a homemade $10/day food regimen optimized for 1) gut immune health, 2) inflammation and 3) common North American seasonal allergies. I call it OSL - Open Source Longevity for retirees. I recently learned Wholefoods gives away premium fish heads for free around 10AM. I have never eaten better cost accounting for homemade tahini, yogurt and peanut butter.


Have you written up the food thing anywhere? I'd be interested in details.


Yeah, there seems to be a serious translation problem converting ideas into mechanical action but it's damn satisfying when you finally nail it. I guess the process in itself requires a kind of creativity because how else could we learn something new. So it makes sense it would strengthen the ability as well.


You should learn to sail.


I'm ancient (late fifties), but even so, I'm struck by the somewhat creakingly defensive tone of several comments in this thread - stolid narratives on the virtues of middle age experience and perspective. Fourty years younger me would be shaking my head. Present day me still is, a little bit.

I try to keep up. I am not necessarily very good at it, but I try. I have sort of given up on quite a few of my contemporary friends who seem to have sort of given up on trying. But all too clearly, ideas and crazy angles just aren't coming the way they used to. I was probably at my creative peak when I was sixteen. Didn't really know shit about anything, but my writings and drawings from that time are still holding up, as fresh and inspired as anything I ever did.


Replying to you is quite arbitrary. But, at some point, I have to at least raise my point.

I'm a cardiologist. I see patients every day. Anyone below 70, to me, is young. It's important to me that they feel the same way: it's easy to get old if you feel old. There's nothing factual or evidence based here. It's just my view.

I understand that the running joke in the Valley is that you're old if you're out of your 20s. But, in my reality, 50s is extremely young.


I am in my 50's and I find the vast majority of adult I know at this age range are very uncreative in their thinking. Not sure why, maybe corporate life has beat it out of them.


If you look really closely at the 20 to 30 age group, much of their creativity is a rehash of old ideas, many of which were shown to be lacking when they first came up. They are successful now not because they are good ideas but because those who support them don't know their history and the consequences thereof. In addition many in that age group has less creativity than those who are older.

Following trends and fashions is a common failure amongst people. Just because something has become fashionable doesn't mean that it is good.


You see? It really isn't all that easy even to sound not old.


Lol, problem with being old is seeing people make the same mistakes over and over again!

Companies don't do the research needed, people take ideas that have been around for years, give them a new label and wala, new idea!


voila


thx ;-)


> maybe corporate life has beat it out of them

Good point. I see a lot (most?) of people whose life revolves around their job and their family obligations, with very little time for anything else. Even with a fulfilling job, I speculate this is detrimental to creativity.


If I did not have creativity in my life, I would wither and die.


You know you're on your way out when the cardiologist won't offer to perform surgery because they don't believe the cost–benefit analysis adds up.

The idea here is to die at the age of 92 by being hit by a bus while you were out for a jog, not because the cardiologists called it.


Get off your horse. You're a kid in your late fifties. Ancient my foot. It's this kind of thinking that allows the little children in their 20's and 30's to think that they know it all.

I'm in my late fifties and will not stop learning and thinking about new things (which are often old things in a different guise), new applications for old technology and how to think about the physical underpinnings of the universe. I teach the young (in their teens, tweens and thirties) to think outside of the box when looking at the universe.

I was taught to think this way in my late twenties by a young lady in her late seventies about always staying young. One's body may get aged but one's mind and spirit shouldn't. One should gain wisdom and yet stay in youthful wonder all of one's days.


I am 51. The last few years I studied Pali Suttas, Stoic writings and Christian Church Fathers. That leads all the way up to Frege, Wittgenstein and NAND Gates. The overlaps were astounding. It filled in just tons of historical explanatory blanks in my view of the world.


> I'm ancient (late fifties), but even so, I'm struck by the somewhat creakingly defensive tone of several comments in this thread

Nobody likes the idea that they are growing older and slowly breaking down mentally/physically. So we lie to ourselves ( 50 is the new 20 and 60 is the new 30 ) and naturally get defensive when people hold up a mirror to us.

> But all too clearly, ideas and crazy angles just aren't coming the way they used to.

Not only that, as we age, we get more conservative and risk averse. Especially as we hit retirement age and you have to live on fixed income.

And as you grow older, you become more cynical with life because you see how the world really is. All the naive idealism and optimism and vigor of youth just fades away.

You can notice this on social media. As the demographics gets older, the creativity and "edginess" and coolness fades and things get more plain, dull and boring. People clamor for more censorship and more moderation and the more mundane. And all the new/hip/creative things are happening on younger platforms with younger people.


People clamor for more censorship

It's the 20-somethings that are doing this, the 40- and 50-somethings I know are generally horrified. But those are old enough to remember the Internet before it retreated into walled gardens, the old days of Usenet.


I'm not satisfied to define creativity as simply having "unusual ideas" as the article says in the opening paragraphs. The study focuses on cognitive flexibility, what I understand to be out-of-the-box thinking.

Other research that composes creativity as a mixture of empathy, pattern-matching, and seeing the big picture suggests that creative ability can be refined with age.


Yeah, I also think "outside the box thinking" as defined by the article is particularly bogus. Their opening example of a 4 year old suggesting the grandfather stop eating all vegetables because eating vegetables defines an adult is cute, but I wouldn't say it leads anywhere productive or meaningful. In fact that kind of outside the box thinking is likely to kill the grandfather sooner.

I suppose this doesn't matter so much if we're talking about purely artistic creativity, which is typically thinking outside the box solely for the sake of thinking outside the box. Sure, maybe that decreases with age, but I'd say objective-based creativity, where the goal is to solve a specific problem, should actually increase with age and accrued knowledge if a person can remain open to new solutions.

Thinking outside the box is easy. Most adults simply don't do it because they're focused on productivity and goals. A kid might think that a great way to feed a family is to build their house out of pizza, so they can just eat the walls and never go hungry. Good luck with that...


I stopped reading the article on that first paragraph, because they presented a stupid correlation from the kid as creativity.

It's not creativity, it's a correlation. It's logical thinking. It's wrong logic, does it make it better than correct logic?


I feel similarly. The scenarios they presented to measure creativity provided an ad hoc definition of creativity that does not appeal to me. As in, if that is the definition of creative, I don't care if I become less creative with age. On the other hand if these kids were solving problems that adults were struggling with, due to lack of imagination, I would feel a greater desire to preserve my juvenescent outlook.

Then again, maybe that is merely a senescent definition of creativity biased by the trials and tribulations of adulthood, and the constant mission to be an efficient problem solver.


I also agree with all of these things.

I think you're right about 'purely artistic creativity'. In addition, I think it's a distraction, a bit misleading. Let's say the boxes are a warehouse of boxes stacked in perfect cubular formation. So, when you leave one box, you find yourself in another.


and we can muse on what the outside of the ware house is haha.


This. In fact, I think creativity is something that needs cultivating. Artists can have their "best" phase about anywhere in life. I don't think there is any bias towards artists having their "best years" when they're young. While art is certainly the most cultivated form of creativity - at least to me.


I think with time comes baggage that is hard to shake off. It's not impossible, but it's a very proactive activity.

I try to posit "what would 16 year old me do here?" to open myself to new ideas and not constrain myself by patterns of the past.


Yes. Subjectively speaking it is finding the correct idea, not an unusual one. It's akin to remembering something. You either remember somebody's name or you don't; you don't make up a new one.


I like a definition of creativity described in https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2015/02/18/a-dent-in-the-universe... , where it's contrasted with imagination. Briefly, creativity is domain specific, like in music or software, while imagination is a domain-independent survival skill for higher rungs on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.


I agree, but I would call that loose thinking, not out-of-the-box thinking. If you don't know where the the box walls are, it's a crap shoot finding the other side.


I too am in my 40s and I think that my creativity is still active. The main difference is now I have the experience to know when an idea is worth acting on and when it is just an "wow, wouldn't that be great."

Even if something would be great, that does not mean that an idea that you have is one that ignites your passion. If you are not passionate about an idea it is not an idea that you should pursue, at least not as a founder, inventor, etc.

I think creativity is simply the way you think. For me, when I see something that I like I always ask myself several questions such as :

1. I wonder why ...... 2. What would be the outcome of .... 3. What if..... 4. Wouldn't it be/function/look/inspire if 5. How can I make this.....

These are not the only questions I ask, but if the answers keep me excited about something, I continue asking myself questions to see if the resulting answers create something worthy of further pursuit. If so, then I approach a couple of trusted people and ask them 'what if this did this or if you had this available to you' would you use it? Would you use it often? Would you tell others about it? What would make it better' etc. If you are lucky an idea or two or five are worth putting all of your energy behind. I have felt that way about a couple of ideas in my life but they did not always come at times that my life allowed me to pursue the idea with all my time and attention, until now. I liken it to finding your significant other, they have to challenge you, ignite your passion and the timing has to be right.

But overall, I believe that Creativity is not about age as much as it is developing your own way of seeing things and then arriving at something new. Not everybody questions most things they see, hear, touch, etc but for those of us that do, well age is just a number.


Before we get into the nitty gritty, did anyone else notice how dumb this article was?

It presupposed some things without evidence: "we lose creativity"

and then creates a convoluted study to support this notion. then creates a second convoluted study that undermines the presented presupposition and didn't discuss that at all.

just right back to the conclusion that writer already had.


It's offensive to call cognitive science dumb.


"cognitively negligent"

if you like synonyms


The thing that I've found as an artist is that, as one's skill grows, the management of that corresponding complexity can overtake one's creative capacity. At higher levels, the methods and structure required for competent execution are a cognitive load that crowds out other impulses. I think this is why you see a lot of older artists create works that are proficient, but repetitive, the habitual overtaking the innovative.

But I don't think this is an unavoidable trajectory. Instead, one has to cultivate "creative thinking" in the same way that they do other skills. The thing that I've found most useful are arbitrary constraints derived from things like word association games. They encourage all kinds of divergent thinking.


I've wondered a lot about the relationship between creative output and age in terms of musicians. Across all genres, it seems that many talented musicians lose their ability to compose or take part in creative works as they get older. Sting talked about this (1); at some point in his mid-40s after writing and releasing new albums every few years the creative well seemed to dry up (he got it back later, and recently helped write and score a play). Other musicians shift to performance mode or give up creating new works altogether.

However, with many well-known authors it seems to be more mixed. At one end of the spectrum you have people like Walter M. Miller Jr. and Harper Lee who write a great work and then seem to stop publishing by the time they reach their early 40s, and then at the other, there are people like Ursula K. LeGuin and Stephen King who are machines for more than 50 years.

1. http://www.npr.org/2014/10/03/351545257/how-do-you-get-over-...


Mozart's requiem, Beethoven's late string quartets, ... here's an entire Slate article. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2011/11/famous_...

I think there are actually very few masters in any age- most of the people whose works we celebrate and enjoy just aren't that brilliant. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with enjoying whatever we enjoy, or that it's trivial or worthwhile to try to spot the timeless master among the many skilled and successful artists. Just that I think you need a different lens.


And yet, classical composers (Bach!) have often produced their best work in their later years.

I think the key is always having somewhere to (creatively) dig. For example, artists who vary genres and instruments seem to do better than those who pick a style and then stick with it for decades. Always head towards unexplored ground; always be reinventing yourself.


Cezanne.


>I've wondered a lot about the relationship between creative output and age in terms of musicians. Across all genres, it seems that many talented musicians lose their ability to compose or take part in creative works as they get older

There are too many counter-examples in classical, blues and whatever for this to be true.

Sting was never in it for the pure love of music in the way someone like Miles Davis, or BB King, or Tom Waits and Elvis Costello for that matter, he got distracted by the jet set lifestyle (Bob Gedolf is an ever worse example of that).


We need artists who started older, to compare. Alternative hypothesis- many artists come to prominence with one great contribution, but they can't do it repeatedly. Not because they are getting older but because they had one grand idea and failed to deliver another.

See, one-hit wonders if all ages. See, The Beatles and Eric Clapton, both famous for continuous reinvention.


Sharp observation. See my comment above. This general takeaway makes fine sense when you calculate the scope of the lifestyle differences.

Here's my loose take: Music is a unique beast; especially these days. It remains the most scientifically fleeting artforms. The reasons why are sensory/media based for the most part, and usually entail a long-winded conversation because of the sheer abstraction of where the power lies in the medium. The conversations a musician has with it's audience actually seems to correlate more with what we consider childishness. In short, it's highly intuitive. Having this type of conversation briefly with rooms full of fans does not quite exercise the 'theory' end. Older musicians whose flame is still burning will usually have a deep and nuanced relationship with their art and practice that only those close to them can begin to understand. Maintaining that is rare.


And then there's "Weird Al" Yankovic, who started out able to hold his own with many of the pop stars he parodied and put out more consistently brilliant work as he got older.


Just dropping by to say I really appreciate the HN community. I have learned a ton through this concentration of (mostly) smart, well-rounded and diverse bunch of people. Thank you. <3


In my twenties I had a very large drive, but of shallow conceptual level. Since my brain slowed a lot, but I can grasp much larger problems and still progress.

It's a smoother exploration process rather than youth random rush through unknown space.


I'm yet to hear a really good, rigorous, and reproducible definition of Creativity in the first place.


Why do you need a "really good, rigorous, and reproducible definition of Creativity"?

People know it when they see it, and instinctively know what it is even if they can't phrase it "rigorously".

Not all things have a "really good, rigorous, and reproducible definition" -- especially "family resemblance" notions. What is a game, for example? You can use all kinds of words and rules to describes the notion of "game" but you can always find counter-examples ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_resemblance ).


People over-think it -- creativity is simply taking an idea, and making that idea happen. Most people can be creative. The trick is for your creativity to be unique and original.


> creativity is simply taking an idea, and making that idea happen. Most people can be creative

Maybe in the context of the HN audience (mostly people interested in writing computer programs), but for me being "creative" means being someone like Stanislaw Lem or Kafka, i.e. people who actually create new (in this case literary) worlds which are really, really interesting to navigate through, so much so that sometimes you don't want to come back into the real world.


a lot of times, new idea is just merger of two


When we hear that we'll know how to program AGI.


It seems to me that we would naturally become less "creative" as we age because we are emmasing knowledge and experience. As we do so we have a much larger bank of solutions to new problems we face. When we are young we have to come up with creative solutions because we can't draw on past experience and accumulated knowledge.

This is probably why we seem more creative when we try something new and novel. We now again have to come up with creative solutions because we have no other reference to go by.


> become less "creative" as we age because we are emmasing knowledge and experience. As we do so we have a much larger bank of solutions to new problems we face.

I don't think this makes any sense.

Drawing on knowledge and experience, and a larger bank of solutions, to solve new problems is creativity.

> This is probably why we seem more creative when we try something new and novel. We now again have to come up with creative solutions because we have no other reference to go by.

I don't think makes any sense.

When we older more experienced people try something new and novel our experience and knowledge and solutions from other fields doesn't suddenly evaporate. There is a lot of crossover in accumulated experience and knowledge.


What the article doesn't touch is how to stay creative.

One of computer scientific ways is to be epsilon-greedy, meaning everytime you have an action to take, you do (1-epsilon) (so 90% if epsilon = .1) times what you think is best and epsilon times something completely random.

Of course, that is a heuristic that doesn't really make sense without a context because you wouldn't want to do it in your job interview or your marriage proposal.

The other extreme is following the following quote which I find quite inspiring:

If you don't fail at least 90 percent of the time, you're not aiming high enough (attributed to Alan Key but who knows)

While that's quite a high bar I personally do something quite different:

When I see something strange happening, e.g. a bird landing right in front of you and looking at you, or you have a deja-vu or you see somewhere some strange reference that looks like a message that only you can understand because it's something that happened in your past, then I'm going to take the other choice.

It happens a few times in a year and mostly biases explorative actions towards when I have a congnitive surplus anyway cause otherwise I wouldn't perceive the strange event in the first place.


I've always found it interesting that "creative activity" as relates to age is apparently quite different depending on the discipline. It's well-known that mathematicians (usually) get their most life-altering ideas quite early in life, while artists often create their most unique impacts much later in life.


Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Wheel of Time, Stormlight Archive) teaches a writing class where one of his lectures focuses on the notion that writing is more about skill/craftsmanship rather than ideas/inspiration:

I want to disabuse you of a few notions. Writing is not about inspiration. Writing is not about ideas. Writing, or more specifically, getting published, is not about luck. What is writing about, then? Writing is about skill. And today I want to try and prove this to you.

When someone sits down to play piano for you, how quickly can you tell if they're a good pianist or not? Basically everybody in this room can judge a pianist's level of skill within a minute or two of play. Not exactly, but you can know if this is someone who's good at piano, or if this is someone who's still an amateur at the piano. You can probably tell if this is a master versus someone who's just pretty good.

Editors, published writers, people who know what they're doing, can do the same thing with one page of your writing in the exact same way. That is why it's not about inspiration, ideas or luck, because in one page I can judge how good a writer you are. People wonder why can editors reject manuscripts or, in this new age, where we're sometimes bypassing editors, how come the readers just put something down after one page when they haven't given it a real shot.

You guys can judge this too. You've read enough, you know enough, you can judge if something is going to work for you pretty quickly. Perhaps not as quickly as most editors can, but you'll know. You'll read a chapter and you'll know if that person is a master, if they're in that medium grade where they've got some good things going on (it's still readable, but they're obviously not a master), or if this is someone's first novel they wrote when they were 12. You can tell all these things. So how do you develop this skill? Practice.

He goes on to note that ideas/inspiration are important, but not the most central part of what makes writing effective.

Many "creative" disciplines like writing, sculpting, and film are more about practiced and skilled craftsmanship than inspiration and ideas, whereas in some other fields, like maths and scientific discovery, breakthroughs really are about inspiration and ideas.


I understand the point, but have to disagree a bit. Skill is as important in Math as anywhere else. The breakthrough ideas of Godel or Einstein would have been lost forever has those guys not also backed them up with solid mathematical evidence which requires great skill. Godel's proof and the complex math behind relativity and Einstein's fight to improve his math skills to justify his ideas are testament to this.

Likewise, skill without ideas happens also. Hundreds or more of screenplays sell every year that will never be made into movies; the writing is technically good so the writers do make money, but the story ideas don't hit, and the buyers eventually realize this before wasting more money.


It's the old perspiration vs. inspiration. I would argue even in those other fields it's more perspiration. It may look like someone has this one off inspired idea, but then we're ignoring all the work they did to get the point where they could even have they idea.

This often occurs with athletic endeavors too. People remember Jordan's game winning shots and talk about his talent (which of course he had), but they forget about the hours and hours and hours of work he put. Kobe Bryants and Kevin Durants workouts are the things of legends.


I've always sort of thought about it as you get older and learn more about things you're interested in you lose the ability to misunderstand something and possibly come across something novel. Creativity becomes less of a coping mechanism as you begin to refine your mastery of your interests and have fewer chances of a misinterpretation taking you down a road of creative explosion.

Which is why I find it important to try and learn new things and find new interests when you can. But even then, "creativity" so often results in a dead end since the chance of discovering something new, effective and possibly better is slim in the first place. But hopefully experience helps in sussing out obvious bad ideas - like not eating vegetables to grow young again.


I'd say this idea itself is already quite controversial and far from settled. Old people are not necessarily worse off in their abilities to think or their "creativity" or whatnot. Children might come up with a load of ideas because their knowledge has not been trained/structured in the same way as the adults have yet. But that doesn't mean their ideas would be particularly useful in solving real problems, since they tend to be far less reality-based.

Also there are psycholinguistic researches at my university that suggest old people don't actually learn more slowly, they have just pruned some nonsensical connections and consolidated knowledge based on real world experience, and are thus worse at learning invented examples that might not make much sense.


If you are concerned about your creativity, I highly recommend looking into improvisation.

Although I am on the young side, I have devoted an evening a week to take improv classes. One of my previous professors did his Phd on how improvisational techniques can help with product design [1].

P.S. Spaghetti !?! Maybe tomorrow...

[1]https://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/61610


The first example of the article is completely flawed though. It's not a matter of creativity, it's that the adult knows that aren't vegetables making you an adult, so he might be thinking a better, more efficient approach (doing something that forces you to learn). Sure there are creative things kids can do, but the first one is an example of ignorance, not creativity.


What you lose in creativity, you gain in knowing "not eating vegetables" is a fucking stupid idea!


What you gain in knowing "'not eating vegetables' is a fucking stupid idea" you lose in the youthful ability to easily digest any crap you like to eat, and still be healthy and fit eating it.


I'm not giving out health advice. Did you read the article? The kid thinks Grandpa can go back in time by not eating vegetables.


>I'm not giving out health advice.

I'm not saying you do. I'm just pointing out that the wisdom of better eating we get at an older age is counterbalanced by the fact that we could eat much worse and not get sick or even out of shape when we were younger.


And by crap we mean alcohol.


(only) 41, I don't think I've ever been particularly creative, but I've never been as enthusiastic about learning new things than now. If anything, it seems my short-term memory isn't as good as before.


It gets better and better if you don't quit your creative practice. Lets look at Nels Cline, the guitarist for Wilco. Now he is very successful,but for most of his life, up until he was over 50 he was a starving jazz guitarist. He never gave up his practice. For some musicians they suffer injuries or health issues that end their career. But as long as you stay healthy and limber and keep up your practice you don't start having issues until you're starting to get close to 80.


This is similar to old companies compared to startups. The two together give a nice balance between stability (and efficiency) to experimentation. I wonder if the analogy extends to the article's observations about teens. Are "teen" companies fairly well established with what they are making but still willing to explore various relationship or management models?


Something has happened to me. I'm 28.

I used to have a shit tonne of ideas, ready to execute. Now that I'm approaching 3 years since graduation at a job that continually seems to demotivate me, all of them have gone. I wanted to be something special, now I have nothing to show.

Don't ever take a job which you don't consider to have a meaningful impact on society.


You're being unfairly hard on yourself. Too harsh. :-) here is what is mostly likely the scenario:

1. You've executed many "crazy ideas" but the projects haven't really mattered much.

2. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, every idea is tempered with merciless cost-benefit evaluation before you get started. You do this subconsciously. Many times you instantly conclude that the payoff for investing in new creative projects is not worth your time. This energy saving subconscious filter is a good thing most times. As you grow older your social responsibilities increase so you cannot be too frivolous with your time.

But ... you keep imagining, you keep dabbling and when the balance for benefit vs cost tips differently you'll most likely go in with the same gusto and energy.

The best part is all those years of dead end projects become a treasure trove of experience and components for your new project!

Keep dabbling!


Most jobs don't have a particularly meaningful impact on society - but they keep people busy and food on the table.

It's a sad situation to work a job that demotivates, but it beats being destitute.


Creativity comes in various flavors

- exploiting the latest technical advances into something new. Favors recent academic grads ==> youth

- ideas that require lots of hours of work to create ==> youth with more energy and productive work hours

- connecting things from unrelated fields together to create something new and unexpected. Favors those with larger, broader experiences ==> age


My feeling is that as an adult I have the ability to "think creatively" when I want to. I don't feel like a study of this nature really takes that into account. I'd be curious what would happen if they added a segment of the test where they ask the subjects to intentionally come up with a creative response.


I preserve creativity by allowing my internal disobedience to flourish and question things. Creativity is about seeing things differently. A lot of the "aging process" can be seen, at least from my perspective, as a grinding down into conformity in a lot of ways. YMMV.


well one thing that's happened for me is that I have maybe an hour to work on things a night, therefore I can only be creative in my chosen field, but creativity as a general rule for me happens most when exploring the new, less exploration of the new less creation.

The other thing is that while I might have great ideas I only have an hour a night to work on them, therefore I will not be implementing them and the end result is if someone would be trying to analyze my creative output now as opposed to my youth when I had more time they would say ah, there has been a precipitous drop in Bryan's creativity.


For examples that go against this idea, check out the work of Maurice Sendak, Julia Donoldson or the cartoon Sarah & Duck, all of which can give any kids imagination a run for its money!


Speak for yourself haha. This is a matter of trajectory. As you get older, you'll follow the trajectory you maintain. I exercise creativity more than fitness and I feel incredible hahahaha.

Here's the key: Balance practice with theory.

It's very sad to see so many people correlate creativity with childishness. What a farce!

Kids are an amazing source of inspiration, and I make a point to cherish every moment around them. But, as you grow, you will probably develop more rigid understandings of the world and society. There's little there that means you are less creative; quite the contrary. But, maybe it's less likely you are exercising it. There are a lot of misnomers out there these days, and the understandings are not found where they should be (like art school).

The point about process is one of the hardest parts these days. Rare alternative art histories offer radically different interpretations of creativity, and they are usually more archaeologically/anthropologically sound as well. Either way, our hurdles are related to many modern cultural trends like habitual idolization, genius fantasies, missed relationships with time and presence. It's a hard one and I have struggled with it a lot, so know you're not alone. The reality is that art is so rarely abstracted in the mind devoid of medium and time. Art is an interaction with materials and process BUT NOT an obsession with them. Obsess on other things. The gap in the middle harbors what we call the creativity. If you don't maintain the boundaries, you won't maintain the gap. Or, if you focus on creativity, you're missing the point and just getting older.

Good luck!!! Oh and put yourself into art history because it's all interpreted anyhow. "We don't know! Let's find out!"


>Speak for yourself haha. This is a matter of trajectory. As you get older, you'll follow the trajectory you maintain. I exercise creativity more than fitness and I feel incredible hahahaha.

https://www.thehairpin.com/2017/07/men-you-dont-have-to-writ...


Thanks for this.


Yeah, not meant as sneering -- just a note that some things are "redundant syntax".


Note that they may just appear that way because you don't get the joke or don't find it funny.

Sounds like sneering to me, but maybe I just don't find it funny.

For dummies: Using the same expression in different contexts, even in the same paragraph, is useful and acceptable.

'Haha' is a literary representation of laughter. It's an expression of the effect of laughter. The article you posted separates effect from cause, splitting the possible jokes in half. This makes things awkward, unsurprisingly. It's foolish and probably misinformed sneering.

Things can even get more complicated! You would be amazed: The more 'ha's, the more laughter. An easy example why this is not redundancy is in the difference between the half-hearted 'ha' and the more genuine 'haha' and the hyperloaded 'hahaha'.

Good luck out there!


What an interesting perspective. Beautifully said.


When young everything was easy, because you knew so little.


This is average people in a statistically (hopefully) relevant study.... average people are not creatives. Average people get locked into world views and ideology as they become adults. Average people don't take creative jobs.

Creative people-- that would be an interesting group to study.

As an older engineer, I'm not less creative. I'm slower at writing code, but I need to write a lot less code. In the end I execute at the same speed or faster than younger engineers (Who often seem to take off writing code before they've thought thru the problem and end up shooting themselves in the foot more often than coming up with an idea I hadn't considered. Not that there's anything wrong with them on the balance, just not a slam dunk that younger programmers are more productive.)

I don't see this declining with aging, though my patience with people who can't respond to logic and facts is declining rapidly.


>average people are not creatives

You'd be surprised. Creative people -- writers, painters, musicians, etc, can be some of the most boring and/or average people in all other aspects of life that you've met.


>Average people don't take creative jobs.

Hi! Average person with a creative job here. I'm good at my work (writing) but am otherwise not creative at all. I do it for money, stop thinking about it at 5PM, and that's it.

I come home, watch TV, and exercise. I have no interest in creativity except that people will pay me for it.



Yep, I tolerate less and less BS either. Probably cost me my job someday.


> I don't see this declining with aging, though my patience with people who can't respond to logic and facts is declining rapidly

I have no patience for management either..aka people who can't respond to logic and facts


naive is not the same as creative.


As we age we succumb to our prejudices.




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