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.
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.
* 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
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)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following trends and fashions is a common failure amongst people. Just because something has become fashionable doesn't mean that it is good.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
It's not creativity, it's a correlation. It's logical thinking. It's wrong logic, does it make it better than correct logic?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
if you like synonyms
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
See, one-hit wonders if all ages. See, The Beatles and Eric Clapton, both famous for continuous reinvention.
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.
It's a smoother exploration process rather than youth random rush through unknown space.
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 ).
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
P.S. Spaghetti !?! Maybe tomorrow...
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.
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.
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!
It's a sad situation to work a job that demotivates, but it beats being destitute.
- 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
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.
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!"
Sounds like sneering to me, but maybe I just don't find it funny.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I have no patience for management either..aka people who can't respond to logic and facts