Why Adults Stop Being Creative and How to Reverse it

Take yourself back to the last time you were creative. Perhaps this was yesterday or perhaps it was when you were a child or a teenager. Did you stop being creative after that? Why did you stop being creative? Can you remember? Was there a negative comment or incident that made you stop? Negative comments or incidents have the power to stop our creativity in it’s tracks causing us to doubt ourselves and to question “am I any good?”. These negative thoughts can stop us picking up a paint brush ever again.

Iv seen many clients over the years who say to me “I’m no good at art, my teacher threw my work in the bin saying that I can’t submit it in my GCSE portfolio because it’s not good enough”. Some clients have said to me “my child was always drawing and painting when they were younger, and suddenly they stopped at age 8 because they thought they were no good”.

Creativity comes to us so naturally when we are children, it’s in our very nature to be beautifully expressive without hesitation or self doubt, but the world around us tends to make us let go of that amazing quality at some point in our lives, leaving us to search for it, hoping to embrace it like children once more.

The good news is that being creative is as easy as learning the alphabet. Scientists have now discovered a concept called ‘brain plasticity’, which means that our brains are constantly changing, adapting and connecting new cells, rather than being mechanical and rigid as once thought. This means we can teach our brains any new skill or fact. This is great news for adults who would like to be more creative or learn something new, but are worried that they aren’t skilled enough. We can now think of ourselves as grown children – adaptable, changeable and in a constant state of learning, able to learn a new skill whenever we wish to do so. Brain plasticity also means that the concept of ‘natural talent’ is dated. Rather we should consider talent as something that has been learnt. Therefore you can now set aside those worried thoughts, apprehensions and anxieties, pick up that paint brush and have the courage to be creative or book yourself into an art class. You, too, can be creative simply by starting.

Here’s a few tips and tricks for embarking on your new creative journey…

# 1 What you will need

You don’t need much to get started – a pencil, a set of brushes, a pack of watercolour paints, acrylic paints or gouache paints (I recommend gouache to get started) and some decent paper or a sketch book of 180gsm.

# 2 Let go of control

Schedule 30 mins once or twice a week for creativity. This is a lovely exercise that I like to do before bed to shake off the day’s stresses. Pop some head phones in and listen to your favourite podcast/music/radio show. Have your chosen paints, water, paper and brushes to hand and simply start doodling on the page. Your mind should be on the noise in your ears rather than focussed on the page. This isn’t an exercise in developing skill, this is just time for you to let go of control and to feel comfortable doing so, allowing the paints to flow on the page wherever they may take you. Easier said than done I know! Stick with it for 4 or 5 sessions and you will start to learn that letting go of control is half the battle to winning back your creativity.

# 3 Learn to love your creative self

There are a lot of ways you can access your creativity like following a youtube video, visiting a gallery or joining an art class, but here are a few of my favourite creative activities that will develop your love of creativity:

  • Make an origami crane (or any origami you like) and then draw it in pencil. Don’t forget the shadow!
  • Make a collage of beautiful patterns and bright colours from old magazines or books. Try cutting a mixture of shapes such as circles, ovals, squares and organic shapes to aid you in fitting them altogether. Give yourself the aim of filling an A5 sheet.
  • Draw or paint the cover of your favourite book.
  • Fold in half an A4 sheet of thick paper. Cut a simple plant/flower and stick it to one half, make a drawing and then paint it on the other half. The simpler the better. Spend no more than 30 mins doing this. Listen to your favourite music or podcast whilst you do it to help you loosen your control.
  • Make a city skyline using old fabric or paper cut outs. Is it night or day? Are there shadows? Is there a sunset? Is there a river?
  • Draw a butterfly and paint it using gouache paint or coloured pencils. Take care to think about the design you would like to give her wings.
  • Collect a few simple leaves (dried or fresh) and arrange them on a piece of paper. On another piece of paper draw what you can see. If this seems too daunting then draw around the leaves instead.
  • Cut and paste a mosaic out of beautiful paper.
  • Create a painting or drawing of a patterned bathroom/kitchen tile.
  • Cut open a piece of fruit and take a close up photo of it. Draw or paint the photograph.
  • Make a paint splat on paper and turn it into a monster/animal/teddy using felt pens/paints.
  • Draw a letter of the alphabet and decorate it.

Keep in mind that your brain is being shaped by these activities, so give your self time to adapt and learn. It won’t happen overnight, but you didn’t learn the alphabet overnight either! Try doing a task a week together with the 30 minute creative task in tip #1 for 3 months. Then compare your art works from when you first started to your most recent work and notice the difference. To help you on your journey join me at one of my popular art classes held monthly in Croxley Green.