Some time ago, I wrote about the tragedy of losing curiosity, where I lamented about a seemingly widespread lack of desire to understand the world around us. As kids, we are encouraged to try lots of new things and activities, fumbling in dance studios, playgrounds, and orchestra halls. The lucky ones among us got to try many extracurricular activities – music lessons, ice skating, dance, gymnastics, track, sports, summer camps, you name it. Throughout our teens and twenties, many of us continue to try new things as we bumble through adulthood – baking, cooking, knitting, miscellaneous-athons, make-up, yoga – or continue to hone what we learned as children.
As we get older and we become more adept at our areas of expertise, we start gaining confidence and feel less like we don’t know what we’re doing. Over time, though, we begin to get locked into what we know and are comfortable with. Our brains gradually lose their plasticity and we start to fear the unknown, preferring what we’re most familiar with. Seeing as I am still in my 20’s, I am merely speculating, but I have already observed a worrisome amount of reluctance in learning or trying new things or making positive changes. Like we are so convinced that we are “x” and not “y” type of person, that we find ourselves overly protective of our identities – a dangerous thing. Such as, “I am not a creative person, nor will you convince me I can be one,” or “I am not a technical person, and there is no point in trying.” You and I are constantly shifting, constantly evolving beings, and we are all ephemeral in the grand scheme of the universe. Worse still, people around us – at work, at home, even in harmless social gatherings, are constantly telling us what to focus on, and in the worst case scenario, dictating our goals, aspirations, and directions. When, then, can we be creative? When, then, is there an incentive to be creative?
I’m not talking about doodling in the margins creativity, or making a “creative solution” due to the presence of constraints. Creativity and artistry can only be achieved when all of our basic needs are met. That is why we don’t see a whole lot of famous artists, musicians, or dancers from poor countries – they are too busy struggling to make ends meet to remotely worry about artistry (though they may perhaps find it on a smaller scale). If little children are being shuffled from activity to activity to hone their creative abilities, why is it that we must end all that as soon as we hit 20, 30, or 40? Does all of our time need to be spent consuming and not creating? We consume to live, but also as a form of inspiration or support for those around us. I consume selectively, and only when the benefits make sense. It’s easy to follow others, but not easy to pave your own way. Over time, our ability to be original becomes muddied as we relax into a follower mentality. The internet has made access to other people’s creations a double edged sword. It is easy to access what other people have created, but also easy to feel discouraged when we realize that somebody else has already done the same thing, but better. The value of “figuring things out,” the process of innovation – not from necessity, but from intrinsic desire – fades over time as key ingredients for creative thought – time, incentive, and mindset – are squeezed out in favor of practical concerns.