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The Creative Adult

“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”     – Ursula K. LeGuin

This quote really struck me when I saw it, and I was curious what you all thought about it.  When we walk (maybe hobble) our way into adulthood, there are so many things that demand our attention and resources.  Getting caught up in these things is easy to do.

But what happened to the possibility and imagination we had as children?  As kids, creativity is as natural to us as breathing and we play as if it were our job (in a way, I guess it is).  But somewhere along the path to adulthood the playing ceases and our creativity takes a back seat to real concerns and necessities.

So where does that child go and how does he/she come back to us?  Let us know what you think in the comments section.  Thanks 🙂

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  1. Hi Amanda,

    I had to walk away from this subject for a bit when I first read it. This touches on a subject that is difficult for me. I suppose because my childhood was a bit shorter than some. There is within each of us the same playful and creative child we knew before the pressures of life and the “importance” of acting like an adult force this part of us into seclusion. This typically begins in our teens and is fully realized once we become responsible for ourselves and perhaps others.

    I am not a big fan of some of the traditional “inner child” work as I think it has a tendency to bring new life to things that should best be left in the past. There is also the danger of drawing false memories to things that may have happened before we were old enough to understand much. I know this is a little off point.

    The creative child we should be looking for holds the lost spontaneity and ability to take pleasure in the simplest of things. A shiny rock, a swimming frog or any of the little wonders that impressed us so long ago. Most people let this child out occasionally for brief moments but quickly return to the mask of adulthood. Every so often we run into someone who has managed to retain this part of themselves into adulthood, amazing us with the amount of passion and energy they put into life. Most of us probably think to ourselves, “I wish I was like that”. Somewhere inside, we are!

    Not long ago I was fortunate to reconnect with a bit of this child in me that had been on life support as long as I can remember. I was not looking since I thought he had died years before. How this happens would be different for each person. My breakthrough had a lot to do with forgiveness and meditation.

    What amazed me is the amount of stored creativity and energy there was. It was almost like the child continued to play and create all the years I was gone. I guess my “long winded” point, sorry, is that this child never really leaves us. If we can find a way to connect with this part of us, the results are earth shattering. Whatever it takes is so worth it!

    Thanks for listening, I may have bored you to tears but I feel better. 🙂

    Roger’s last blog post..Dreams

  2. Hi Amanda,
    Where does that child go? Is it that we’re “expected” to be more like an adult? Is it that responsibilities make us focus on being responsible – and creavity doesn’t fit that picture? Is it that realities in life start to take us to a point not being our true selves, instead being the self that finds a way to “fit in”? I think it’s all of this, and more. I know I’ve fallen prey to all of these. I hope that I’m breaking free and getting back to what was there at a younger age…

    Great thought here today Amanda – thank you…

    Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

  3. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Roger – Wow, thank you for this really thoughtful comment. I think your mention of noticing the “simple things” as a part of childhood and part of the child within us as adults is right on. It’s the ability to be curious about things and to see them for the wonders that they are that’s special.

    “It was almost like the child continued to play and create all the years I was gone.” Beautiful and inspiring, and I love the imagery. Thanks!

    Hi Lance – Yes, this quote brings up lots of questions. Taking some time to examine these questions you’ve asked will surely bring us a little closer to that child. 🙂

  4. Amanda,

    I loved the quote! “… the child who survives” is such a beautiful and challenging thought. I’m going to spend some time with that child in me now… 🙂

    Daphne’s last blog post..How To Find Happiness That Lasts

  5. Hi Amanda

    Unfortunately I think that not only is it responsibility and adult life that takes over, but, worse still, for many children the creativity is actually hurt and it takes a great deal of work to encourage it to come to the fore again.


    LifeMadeGreat – Juliet’s last blog post..Being Understood – Juliet’s Comment

  6. So true. I’m very grateful for my two little girls because playing and being with them brought this idea back into my life.

    Christopher’s last blog post..The Sublime Goodness Mixtape

  7. Hi Amanda,

    You’re just full of thoughtful questions aren’t you? I like that – it keeps me on my toes.

    I think we tend to lose our openness and creativity as soon as we start believing that life is work and not play. It’s my belief that to regain the child we must discover our natural passion and run with it.

  8. Thanks for this post. In my experience, it’s funny that, although we tend to think of ourselves as adults who have outgrown our “childish” behaviors, the ways of being that hold us back in life come from the ways we weren’t allowed to fully be children. “I might embarrass myself if I wrote this article,” for instance, is something that occasionally comes up for me, and that seems to me to be really just the introjected voice of a parent saying “don’t embarrass me! Stop making so much noise!” And yet our culture tends to think of being “socially proper” and avoiding embarrassment as adult traits. Best, Chris

  9. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Daphne – I also thought the “child who survives” was a powerful phrase. Glad you liked it 🙂

    Hi Juliet – You make a good point about the loss of creativity in childhood due to some hurt. That’s an unfortunate situation.

    Hi Christopher – Your kids must be great reminders!

    Hi Michael – What else is there besides questions? 🙂 I think bringing more play into our lives is great for our creativity.

    Hi Chris – Yes, I agree that “well-meaning” direction given to us by adults when we were kids can sometimes backfire. It’s too bad really, but we have to learn to bring it back on our own.

  10. […] much play makes Mikey an irresponsible boy. Last week Amanda of Look Far wrote a short post about The Creative Adult. She asked her readers: …what happened to the possibility and imagination we had as children? […]

  11. Hi Amanda, I just discovered your blog through Love to Spare. I like it!

    So where does that child go and how does he/she come back to us?

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I think as we grow up and accumulate responsibilities, our attention seeps away from the present moment to things we have to do later. It becomes a habit for our minds to be somewhere else, and we miss the the moment-to-moment curiosities that keep life so abundant and interesting.

    I really like this idea of bringing a childlike sense of inquiry to everything, I wrote a post about it that you might like: here.

    David Cain’s last blog post..The Secret to Connecting With People

  12. What happens I believe is we forget to nurture our magical child and we replace it with responsibilities.

    For me, it’s the opposite…when I was a child, I was a bit more serious and reserved…so focused on ballet and art. Now as an adult, I am at my most playful and most creative stage on my life. But I agree that most of us tend to be more focused on the responsibilities of everyday living.

    “Creativity is the soul at play!” ~Henie~ :~)

    P.S. I love all the photographs that you use! Very inspiring to me! :~)

    Henie’s last blog post..Life Is Like A Door

  13. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi David – Thanks for your comment! Yes, I know exactly what you mean. When we play as kids, we’re not thinking about what we need to get done that night – we are just playing. As adults, it’s hard to get your mind on the thing that you are doing, rather than on the 50 things you are going to do soon. 😉

  14. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Henie – I’m lucky to have found some great photographs – glad you like them. That’s interesting that you find yourself to be more playful now – what a gift!

  15. How To Reclaim Your Childlike Passion For Life…

    Image by lepiaf.geo

    In the film “Knocked Up” a man sits at a park bench watching his daughters blow bubbles. He says to the man beside him, “Why do they get so excited over bubbles. They’re just bubbles.”
    He sits there musing for…

  16. Thanks for your ideas. Try working with 4 and 5 year olds and really listening to what they have to say! We were in fits of laughter at school today as little miss 4 interpreted “Fox runs into the trees” as literally crashing into the trees as he ran, and indeed the illustrations supported her understanding – I have used this little book a number of times and never seen this interpretation. Also when viewing artwork, children bring a fresh perspective, a freedom if you like, to their interpretation of the artist’s message. I find that working with this age group brings out the creative child in me. I’ve written a simple blog post on this – check it out!

    Jacqui’s last blog post..Children and Visual Art

  17. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Jacqui – Thanks for your comment! It must be wonderful to work with kids like that on a daily basis. I think for children everything is a possibility. They don’t limit themselves.

  18. Matt Matt

    Adult creativity is hard work . It has to be wedged in to life or you have to be fortunate and have a job that uses your imagination. I also don’t feel that I want a child’s creativity. I want the sophistication of my experience to be part of my art. As a painter I place high standards on my creative effort and so art is also work. Yet, in the core of the effort is the great peace and joy children have when they are doing most anything, let alone scribbling.

  19. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Matt – Thanks for your comment. “I also don’t feel that I want a child’s creativity.” That’s an interesting idea, and the more I think about it, neither do I. It’s easy to be nostalgic for the times when you created so freely, but you’re right, adult creativity is sophisticated, and I enjoy my sophisticated creativity. I think most of all people want to capture that spirit they had when they were children and creativity is a big part of that. 🙂

  20. beia beia

    i wonder from time to time if i am ‘old’ … a friend of mine said to me one day that you become old when you give up on your dreams. that always stuck with me and continues to help me hold on to the parts of my childhood i never want to forget.

  21. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi beia – Thanks for your comment. 🙂 I don’t know if giving up your dreams is what makes you old, but I do know that life is more pleasant with your dreams (even if they are mostly in your head).

  22. Matt Matt

    If dreams were destinations we’d always be in the same spot: wherever our first dream came true. I favor the idea of dreams as the best reality test for current satisfaction. When the dreams are piling up like bills open a couple and write a check. Do it.

    Amanda I assume you dreamt the writer but maybe not the blogger nor commenter but if this were it and all other dreams were null and void what would you think?

  23. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Matt – Hmmm, I guess having dreams always give me a sense of future possibility. Even if I acheived all of my dreams at one time I think I would continue to dream new ones. They make me feel energetic. 🙂

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