Honest, I was going to write this post about creativity last week, but at the last minute decided that honoring Thanksgiving was more appropriate. And then, The Passive Voice, one of my favorite blogs, ran an article called, “Is Creativity Destined to Fade with Age?” in the meantime.
Originally published in Valley News, the article mentioned Doris Lessing, who died recently at age 94, who said, five years before, that the writing had dried up. “Use it while you’ve got it,” Ms. Lessing was quoted, “because it’ll go.”
The article then asked the question, “Does creativity have an expiration date?” and mentioned Philip Roth and Alice Munro, both of whom announced recently they would stop writing. He was 79, she was 81. The National Endowment for the Arts, together with the National Institute on Aging, is apparently looking into how creativity can be fostered throughout a person’s life.
Meanwhile, should the rest of us be worried? Not necessarily. In math and science, creative breakthroughs might occur at younger ages, because studies show the frontal lobe is still building myelenization, a sheath around the brain. After the early 40s, however, demyelenization starts to occur, and that benefits older people. “When you see a retired person undertaking creative pursuits, it may be that their brain organization is different.”
As an aging writer (and aren’t we all?), I’ve wondered how many books I can write before I decide to quit, especially with the record of Nora Roberts taunting me. But what is creativity anyway? Is it writing the same romantic formula in different ways? Is the author of science fiction or fantasy more creative than the one who writes about contemporary or even historical times and places? Is an artist who produces abstract paintings more creative than one who makes representational art, putting on canvas what one observes of the world with the human eye?
After years of writing romance fiction, I’m moving into mystery (which I’ve always preferred to read) and I’ll be anxious to see if my newest books get accepted by editors, published, and then meet with approval by readers. However, even my romance novels usually held an element of intrigue, or a problem the characters had to solve before the inevitable happy-ever-after ending. An example of the latter is THE ITALIAN JOB, which gives my heroine the task of investigating an old problem haunting the hero, and the surprising truth she uncovers. I loved writing that book and, judging by the copies I sold at the Book Fair a week ago (and the later comments), readers like it too.
Fellow-writers, do you consider yourself creative? Do you always feel creative? Do you sometimes switch genres to challenge yourself?