August 15, 2019
How to Rebuild that Childlike Creative Divergent Thinking
In the magical book, Le Petit Prince or The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry tells the story about a grown-up meeting his inner child in a confusing war-torn world. The book is filled with metaphors and the creative images — from traveling on a distant asteroid to meeting a snake — are part of what makes this tale so memorable.
As we become adults, that childlike characteristic of intuitive free thinking and free association becomes a bit more subdued in favor of the more concrete and logical. And why wouldn’t it? Adults have to cope with life’s constant problems and ensure that all the ends meet and add up together; there is no place for imaginative animals, fancy boa constrictors, dreams of roses or being stranded on a desert island.
This childlike wonder and imaginative association is the stuff creative dreams are made of and very often – and especially as we grow up — that becomes easier to say than to actually put into practice. Deepak Chopra, who has outlined some tips that help spark that creativity, suggests looking to the past to see what “brought you joy and light as a child.”
One of the things many mothers love to do is to see their children play and enjoy the sandbox and watch all the creativity that comes with it. It could be a box of sequins, a tub of chalk, or a bubble blower…every little thing sparks some sort of joy in kids as Marie Kondo would have wanted. But as we get more “concrete sequential” in our thinking, it becomes harder to find that childlike joy and wonder in the simplest of things.
“Unstructured time” is a tactic that many parents are recommended to have for their children---and this type of judgement free, no-holds-barred type of brainstorming and creativity is also very good for adults. In the story, “You’re 96 percent less creative than you were as a child,” Inc. magazine points out that a NASA study found that out of 98 percent of 1,600 four and five-year-olds came in at the “creative genius” level. Some experts found that a part of creativity is drained by education.
Many rules become more hard-lined and pronounced as adults: children are natural rule breakers and take great delight and pride in making things and ideas their own.
If you’re having a bit of a hard time grappling with your creative output, here are five tips we’ve come up with to help jumpstart that childlike divergent thought process:
1. Allow thinking and creativity to happen without being judgmental.
Children dream a lot and make magic out of being silly and they don’t think twice about it. Sometimes, putting aside your inner critic can help your creativity tremendously.
2. Treasure everything, even the trash.
If you’ve watched children play, you’ll realize they are able to take even crumpled balls of wastepaper and turn it into a softball to catch and play. What adults would normally chuck into the garbage are items that kids turn into some sort of fantasy world.
3. Be curious.
A 2018 study published by Yannick Stephan in the journal, Intelligence, found that adults with higher IQ performed at more youthful levels later on in life, and part of this meant having a higher “openness to experience” or being more curious to things. Part of being curious means to be open to new experiences. One way to achieve this is to take up a new hobby entirely (e.g. have you learnt the art of being a trapeze artist? It’s never too late to start). Perhaps the art of paper-making interests you? That could really open up doors to your creativity!
Let the magic happen: allow yourself to dream.
4. Enjoy and create in the moment.
Children don’t hold grudges and really live and create in the moment. When they blow bubbles, nothing else matters. They’re not thinking about bills to pay or making plans to meet their architect the following day. They’re just truly enjoying blowing those bubbles!
5. Unleash your imagination.
Many children have rich imaginations, turning their toys into superheroes, conjuring up characters and making objects come alive. That’s because they’re not holding back their imagination in any way and not second guessing themselves. Often, strong creativity happens when imagination is just left to itself without holding too much back.
As the little prince rightly says, “all grownups were once children.” To be truly young again can be harder for some of us, but it is precisely through a magical combination of being curious, letting your imagination run wilder than normal, and truly being in the moment that creativity can truly happen. And if if you feel you’ve mastered the basics of letting go and being creativity, the next step is to put it into practice: take up a new hobby, and fine-tune these skills at almost every point during the day until they become second nature to you!
One of the ways to get your imaginative juices flowing is to learn a new craft from a master in the field, tailored to your skill level. We offer mini apprenticeships with artists in many countries. Browse VAWAA artists.
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