“It took a grown-up to imagine the Harry Potter books,” author Neil Genzlinger writes in a New York Times piece reviewing two new television shows, 2 New Ways to Relive Childhood.
I love that line. He was exploring our idealized vs. actual childhoods and how certain activities and toys (as explored in two different television shows) transport us back to those — potentially — good old days.
He said, “A 10-year-old’s imagination doesn’t really go very far. It took a grown-up to imagine the Harry Potter books.”
That line really got me excited. Power to the grown-ups!
So much has been written about the value for older people in staying creative. What interests me even more is the contention that adults actually become more creative in later life. Think about prolific Grandma Moses and Claude Monet and John Updike.
Of course we get more creative! We just have to be sure life doesn’t beat the expression of it out of us. Creativity is born of experience, making connections, seeing and doing things, going places, taking one idea and relating it to another, and having space to experiment. I like this quote by Hillary Rodham Clinton:
“Some of the most powerful works of art have been produced by older Americans by hands that have engaged in years of hard work, eyes that have witnessed decades of change, and hearts that have felt a lifetime of emotions.” (from a monograph for the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, Americans for the Arts, in 1996)
I’m personally a big proponent of all of us staying tapped into or returning to sources of childhood creativity, to loves and hobbies from back then. But the line in the New York Times article got me excited because I just never really thought about how there’s a formula that looks something like this:
SPARK OF CHILDHOOD CREATIVITY + LIFE EXPERIENCE/WISDOM = MASTERPIECES
We won’t all write Harry Potter or War and Peace tomes that captivate the world. But we will do beautiful work that’s alive with hints of us and our passions and potential, especially if we take the best of those early years, strip away the kudzu that life has layered onto the saplings that we were, and let the mighty oaks we’re becoming grow in the soil of maturity, of life and its loves and losses.
To dream more about your own artistic process (and to smash possible obstacles with mighty truth-weapons), check out Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.
To think more about this, listen to this NPR piece on Lastingness: The Creative Art of Growing Old,” with author Nicholas Delbanco.