Stay Creative: Work Like a Grown-Up, Think Like a Kid

work like a grown up think like a kid

When we are young, our work usually stinks. It’s not our fault — we’re just starting out. We haven’t put in very much time yet; we haven’t learned invaluable techniques; we haven’t been inspired by those amazing things which will inspire us.

And when we begin to grow up, we start to get better. Our work is more mature, more technically proficient, more in sync with what we actually are trying to accomplish. But with all of those positives come potential downsides. One of them is that we start to think like a grown-up, which is a surefire way to cut off some vital creative flow.

What happens is that as we get older and become more in tune with “serious” art, then we start to think like serious artists. It makes sense, of course — you’re no longer writing about being an astronaut in kindergarten or drawing your pets with crayons. You have become an adult and are expected to work on art that has a certain adult sensibility. Plus, you have a lot of adult responsibilities you didn’t before. If you’re trying to make a go at this art thing while also balancing a full-time job and your own family, then you should always be treating your art as something significant and urgent, right?


Listen, it is very important to pick up a lot of adult habits when it comes to your art — you need to work on discipline, concentration, patience, perseverance and the ability to accept rejection. Kids don’t have any of this, and those are big roadblocks to be successful. But what kids do have is a sense of wonder, a fascination with everything. Give them a pen and paper and they won’t start listing all the bills they have to pay or the social problems they’re trying to identify in their next great work.

Instead they’re going to do something that has been rolling around their heads all day, or just enjoy the spontaneity of creating something completely new. They may have no idea what is going to come out, but they are excited to do it, just to see something new in front of them. And that is what you need to hold onto. When you are starting a new project, you should feel like a kid — not someone who has to do something, but someone who gets to. Someone who gets to crawl into their own world again and go exploring.

When you grow up, you put away many childish things. But let’s be honest — no one who’s creative ever grows up all the way.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.