If You've Given Up on Creativity, Read This

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The creative class, whatever that means, was always supposed to be the wave of the future. Employers claim they want outside-the-box thinkers, culture values makers and visionaries, and society works to wring creativity out of every imaginable profit-making situation. It's enough to burn anybody out, and to discourage anyone who feels they're not "good" at creativity. Evidence shows that's a false choice, and we've got the papers to prove it.

Economists at Ohio State University and the University of Chicago have just released a study looking at the careers of Nobel laureates in economics. This research tracks decades of output and fallow periods, and offers some encouraging evidence about when and how people "peak" in their work. In essence, the creative thinking that earned these economists the Nobel Prize tended to happen either in their mid-20s or their mid-50s.

Each of these peaks tended toward different kinds of creativity. The first group comprises the "conceptual innovators," the scholars who really think outside the box and generate new ideas about the world. The second, later group has more knowledge about their chosen field and figures out new ways to analyze data within it. These are the "experimental innovators."

Creativity isn't static; it isn't something you have or you don't have. If you're feeling run down or empty on the creative front, let yourself enjoy someone else's work for a while. It can be job-related or purely for fun. Listen for the questions you ask yourself about that other person's work. Most of all, don't write yourself off. You've always got time to grow and succeed. When it comes to creativity, age ain't nothing but a number.