Ours is a youth-oriented culture. A glance at the tabloids tells us of the exploits of the young. There is not as much of a platform for the artistic achievements and accomplishments of the older or even the middle aged. We falsely believe that creativity belongs to the young, and so, when we pass a certain age, we tell ourselves we are “over the hill.” We ignore the fact that many artists create well into what might be called their “dotage.”
The idea that creativity fades with age is false.
Twenty-five years ago, I wrote a book on creativity called The Artist’s Way. Over four million people have worked with that book. I have taught many live classes and have often found my just-retired students to be the most poignant. Setting out to write a book on creativity and aging, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, I discovered that many of us have a fiery passion we long to express in our golden years. As we turn our hand to the page, crafting a memoir of our time on the planet, many dreams surge to the fore. It is not “too late” to begin their pursuit. Often, our life’s experience gives us a “leg up” in creating meaningful art. Comfortable in our own skin, we may find the gift of candor as a passion that has been brewing for decades pushes to the fore with energy and conviction.
We are taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic. Nonsense.
Internalizing these destructive messages, we believe we’re “too old,” decide it’s “too late.” But “I’m too old” is something we tell ourselves to save ourselves from the emotional cost of the ego deflation involved in being a beginner.
In the moment of creation, we are ageless. We feel both young at heart and old and wise. “Artists work until the end,” my photographer friend Daniel said to me recently. Yes, they do. This is why retirement from one career— even if it is our major career—is not, by any means, “the end.” Because the act of creating something, anything, renders us timeless, because the act of creation is led by that inner, youthful part of ourselves, we continually reinvent our lives through our art. The capacity to create is as innate as our very life force. I would even say that our creativity and our life force might be one and the same.