It begins with an unguarded moment. We have all had the experience of letting our mind wander, and daydreaming about doing something entirely new. One day we are living an ordinary life—expending our energies just existing, taking care of every-day commitments and chores. The next day, a new possibility pops into our brain, and we allow ourselves to think about it—exploring tentatively at first, returning to it through the day, looking it up online, reading books about it, perhaps even talking about it.
For some of us the idea will flourish for a while, and then dissipate as our inner critic—our rational mind, convinces us that it’s impractical, that we are too old, we don’t have the background, that we don’t have the time, the talent or the drive to do it. Eventually we dismiss the possibility and let it go.
But for some of you the idea takes hold. You dip one toe in, you give it a few hours, the next day, you think about it again, and before you know it, you are immersed in a project, an art form, a hobby, an adventure that captivates you and leads you off into an entirely new direction.
You have awakened the right side of your brain.
Without realizing it, you have stimulated the creative side of your brain. You have awakened your ‘right’ brain, that part of your brain that is more fluid, flexible and receptive to new ideas. You have allowed yourself to move beyond the gremlins of self-doubt and rational thought and into a brand new arena.
At this point, you might realize that you have become creative, and you may wish to understand the process. You might ask, What is creativity? You might wonder how it took you from a fleeting mental impression, to something that now has form.
Linda Naiman, (Creativity at Work) defines it this way:
Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.
Deepak Chopra, (Chopra Foundation), puts it differently, saying:
Creativity is a process of transforming the raw energy, information, and material of the universe into something that has never before existed.
The study of creativity and the brain has led to theories about how ideas can be processed in one form and have an outcome in another, and how these processes of the brain are affected as we age.
The days of believing that our brains are hardwired—that we lose the capacity to expand, transform and adapt by the time we reach old age are long gone.
Neuroscientists have now accepted that the brain has a quality referred to as “plasticity”, which gives it the ability to form new neural pathways up to a very old age. This is the quality that allows you to learn a new language, a musical instrument, or take up an entirely new art form, no matter what your stage in life might be.
You can form new neural pathways well into old age.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, many older adults are creative, and have achieved extraordinary results well into old age.
By reawakening their creativity, they have recaptured the natural enthusiasm, energy, and wonder of youth. They have not bought into the belief that they are too old—instead, they have taken the quantum leap over the laborious steps of rational thought, and ventured into creativity .
Can you do this? Is this amazing process available to you?
Of course it is. It is still there, just as it always has been, only this time it is augmented by life experience—millions of rich, valuable impressions that you can draw on while you are exploring the medium you want to express.
What should you attempt? What can you do?
Well, anything, it turns out. You don’t have to be the next Michelangelo, or Robert Frost. You just have to do something that stimulates your creative brain.
Once you start, there can be no going back.
Once you find your artistic and creative niche, you will wake up each morning, champing at the bit, anxious to get going. Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. Nothing is impossible.
Here are some ideas:
- Write a piece of music
- Take a course in quilting
- Learn about medicinal herbs
- Learn a musical instrument
- Do something new for your health—learn yoga or tai chi
- Bake the perfect cake
- Learn carpentry and build a birdhouse
- Learn the names of hundreds of perennials, and start growing them
- Write a poem or a story about your childhood
- Take a class in dramatic performance
- Learn the principles of water colour
- Learn grade six math (or algebra!) and apply it to solve life problems
Opening your mind to the creative process will open new channels. It will wake you up, and give your life new meaning. Once you have fulfilled an idea, you will be inspired to try another one. You are now on a creative path that will take you into new worlds of experience!