“Look at things like a kid”

“Using your hands and mind”

“Stay in touch with your imagination”

As an adult, it tends to feel somewhat strange to let your imagination run wild. Something so basic which a child can do with ease, can be difficult as we age and forget. In fact, for some people it has been so long since they used their imaginations in a PLAYful way, they wrongly assume they were never that way. But all children unlearn how to be creative. They lose INSPIRATION over time.

I am interchanging the words, ‘play’, ‘inspiration’ and ‘imagination’ on purpose. There are many words which could also jump in here. The point is not so much the word, but the feeling of using them. The expression. If we try really hard, can we conjure up what it was like to be age 3, or age 5, when we were all considered to be creative geniuses? It might be difficult, because by age 25, only 2% of us have retained this definition.

These statistics are courtesy of a talk given by Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary at the IDEA conference in 2013. It is her worry that the drastic decline of creativity we see in people as they become adults is a serious global issue. For without creative thought, how will our problems be solved? How will we innovate? 

I would suggest we pull the lens way back and start looking for answers at home. Look at ourselves first. How could our lives be better if we tackled some local problems? Even something which is only of concern to our own family or living situation. Take a break from all the technology and set aside an hour or two to use our brains and think. Be creatively lost in thoughts which are of personal importance. To some of us who have remained more creative at heart, this exercise may not seem so wacky, or maybe even for us, it will. Because, the ‘ask’ of putting aside technology for a few hours is often deemed completely crazy.

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.”
—Diane Ackerman

It might feel more natural and comfortable to start with handwork. That is the creative outlets we use our hands for. Which can be anything from colouring, painting and drawing to knitting, sewing and gardening. The only criteria for handwork is your hands and your mind driving the work. It doesn’t have to be original, it can be accomplished by following a pattern or the guidelines of others. During the time spent doing handwork, a rhythm forms. Then we can relax a bit and start thinking of others things. Even if we can’t afford to split our attention overtly, a part of our brain will be chewing on other problems in the background of our attention. 

If you watch and listen to a child colouring, they are having a far greater experience than just the expression of crayons on paper. This is often a great time to talk with a child, particularly a boy. This shared experience builds trust and allows a flow of thoughts and ideas between people, which is a difficult dynamic to accomplish in other circumstances.

At the beginning of my career, the companies I worked for had not switched to computer drawing yet. Being low on the ladder, I often had to spend hours colouring in sketches, by hand according to the designers instructions. On big projects with tight deadlines, whole groups us would be assigned to colour, late into the night. Those were fun times. We passed the hours of monotony by chatting about all kinds of stuff, completely unrelated to the task in front of us. Friendships were formed by this shard experience, in-real-time. Only by going through things together, like I did as a child can the tight bonds between people be formed. And we were using our creative handwork at the same time.

As my industry moved into the digital age, we were able to colour up sketches in no time at all, seconds. But that meant we had to do all sorts of other things to fill our days. Not the least of which was to produce thousands of colour sketches in a week instead of maybe a hundred in a whole season. The creative process was reduced and diminished. We lost the collaboration time, the slow design process where people worked together and considered the time it took to do something before committed to the task. 

Just a small example of how life has changed. The creative ways which children learned by handwork, how to enjoy their time and interact with others is being replaced with digital devices and the FaceTime is virtual. But, I can remember what it was like for me. I can easily take myself back to the handwork which brought me so much joy as a creative genius child. I wish that for everyone.

I welcome:


Christine Westermark

I am working on a movement to empower women to practice creativity everyday, in every way we can. I believe this will be able us to realize our full potential in all facets of our lives. Be bold! Join, start or share in this social movement.

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