It isn’t really a huge revelation that I am curious. I’ve always been curious. So, I’ve been thinking about the links between curiosity and creativity.
In 1994, NASA conducted a study to track creativity. They found that 98% of 4-5 year-olds had genius level creativity. Five years after that (in 9-10 year-olds) that number was just 30%. In 14-15 year-olds? Just 12%. Perhaps saddest of all, as adults, only 2% are measured to be genius level creativity.
Now, of course, there are people who will argue that ‘genius’ level creativity isn’t the only kind. Of course its not. That’s not the point. The numbers don’t lie.
Do you care to guess how many times I’ve heard adults say ‘well, I’m just not creative.’ Some people really don’t think that way. Some people just don’t want to try. The reality is, however, that statistically speaking nearly all of us WERE creative at one point. So now the question is – what happened and how do we get it back?
First. Why is it important? Maybe you say to yourself ‘but I don’t work in a creative field.’ Wrong. INCORRECT. You do, we all do.
The creative doctor sees patterns in symptoms that other’s overlook, is curious about the cause, and comes up with a new diagnosis. The creative meteorologist sees weather formations and is curious about how they develop, and they create new predictive methods. The creative engineer wonders why things have always been done a certain way, and is curious if another method might result in better systems.
Creativity lights up our brains, our learning centers. Creative thinking reminds us that anything is possible (or at least most things) and nearly everything around us was thought to be impossible at one point.
So why do we lose it? Why are 98% of young children wildly creative, but only 2% of adults?
It kind of makes sense. As we get older – even just a few years older – the pressure to ‘fit in’ starts to get intense. We learn to go with the flow, follow the leaders, and not to draw attention to ourselves unless we are absolutely sure we are right. Then, like a muscle, our creativity withers from disuse.
Therein lies the problem. We have to have the courage to try. We have to have the courage to be vulnerable, to put our ideas out there. Some will NOT work. Some will.
I spent a lot of years working in human services, constantly asking, ‘why?’ My creativity meant my mind was constantly seeking alternative solutions. It made me curious. Or perhaps my curiosity engaged my creativity. Not sure it matters. The fact is, I was annoying. I could not go along with the status quo. I couldn’t do things just because they had always been done that way or because the Senior Leadership said so. I questioned. I asked. I suggested. I got shot-down. A LOT.
I got a lot of answers. Most of them unsatisfying. I didn’t actually mind my ideas being shot down that much. I minded the fact that their answers did not acknowledge that there might be another way to think about the problem.
I’ve always joked, that I don’t always come up with the best ideas, but I’m a good person to have in the room when you are brainstorming. I don’t care if I came up with the idea. Maybe I can take your idea and make it better. Maybe you can take mine and do the same.
When I worked in human services as a supervisor, I would frequently give my staff the assignment to not ask ‘can we do this?’ Instead, I would tell them to ask ‘what would it take to accomplish this?’
Why? Because ‘Can we?’ is a yes-or-no answer. ‘What would it take?’ requires you to start thinking. It automatically engages your curiosity and creativity. It doesn’t MATTER if they results are practical or achievable – not yet. The idea is to start brainstorming. Its amazing how many solutions you come up with if you don’t provide yourself another out.
One of my pet peeves is memes that say something to the effect of ‘I’m a mom, I don’t have time for hobbies.’ First – let me say YOU DO YOU. I am in no way saying you have to have hobbies. I could argue that having something you enjoy that has nothing to do with your spouse/SO or children is extremely important (and I am. I am arguing that – but you are free to disagree), but its all relative. I write, for example. I don’t get paid to write. I write because I have words inside me forcing themselves out. I paint. Not all that well, or all that often, but I do. I read. I cook and bake outside of what is just needed to feed my family. Sometimes I am just curious about what happens if you combine certain ingredients. I quilt. I used a pattern a couple of times – and those quilts are nice! Then, I got curious about what would happen if I tried to create an ocean out of fabric. Now that’s how I quilt. I get curious. I just answer the questions my creativity drums up.
I’m not that concerned about what anyone else thinks of my paintings, or my quilts, or my baking, or my writing. I am certainly extremely grateful for those who read or view or eat. I am grateful for all of the support and feedback – good and bad. I’m even grateful when someone thinks I’m ridiculous because it reminds me not to be too concerned with what everyone else thinks.
I sing (decently) and dance (terribly) and am always up to consult on a good blanket fort. I find shapes in the clouds and always, always ask questions. I learn endlessly – often just because I’m curious. I google historical sites and clothing mentioned by book characters.
Do I always have the answer to everything? No. I’m not supposed to. But I’m always asking the question ‘what would it take?’
Be curious. You haven’t lost that creativity, its just dormant. Every amazing discovery and advancement we have ever known came from trying something new.
Take care. In the immortal words of Ms. Frizzle ‘Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!’
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