Can You Be Creative At Any Age?

You can be creative at any age, but it won’t be the same type of creativity. 

And that’s a good thing. 

Developmentally speaking at least – which brings us to Carl Jung and James Hollis.

Inspired by Jung, Hollis says humans have 3 phases of life.

Childhood is characterized by magical thinking – where wishes seem possible if not downright probable. Between the magic of our parents/adults, and a lack of awareness of limits or boundaries (“I can eat ALL the sugar!”), childhood is about nearly unbridled exploration.  

Heroic thinking emerges as we grow into disappointment, but forge ahead with hope. We leave home, maybe start a career, and seek to build a life. It’s the nudge from the nest, a test of the belief “if they can fly, so can I.” 

And then midlife hits. The crisis part. Earlier for some, later for others, and unfortunately never for many.

Realistic thinking occurs when the projections have collapsed, the hopes and expectations have died, and the limitations of our talents, intelligence, and courage itself have met a wall. 

As Hollis explains in The Middle Passage

So life calls us all to a different perspective, a settling of the youthful hubris and inflation, and teaches the difference between hope and knowledge and wisdom. Hope is based on what might be. Knowledge is the valued lesson of experience. Wisdom is always humbling, never inflationary… The realistic thinking of midlife has as its necessary goal the righting of a balance, the restoration of the person to a humble but dignified relationship to the universe.

Creativity follows us through these phases. Or least curiosity does. Harnessing curiosity with a habit of any kind, it’s both timeless and ageless.

Magical thinking is great for making-believe and crayonic art. 

Heroic thinking is exceptional for launching new ideas and taking daring risks. 

And realistic thinking is the most profound at all. It’s the understanding that if life is never the whole and only the parts. Just like our perceptions of our identity. 

Because our identities shift and change too. Many times, if we are so lucky. And with each new identity comes a new phase of life, to think magically, then heroically, and then realistically. 

So yes – you can be creative at any age, just know each age opens up the ability to be creative in different ways. 

Magical in exploration, heroic in getting the idea down, and realistic in ultimately sharing it. 

It’s a feature, not a bug.