“For an adult facing the responsibilities of a family and a career, devoting... time to purely developmental activities - activities that cost money rather than earn money - would be exceedingly tough. Only in childhood and adolescence will the time typically be available.”
- Geoffrey Colvin
This quote sums up a harsh truth for many people who detect their creativity is waning as they become older.
- What factors make for a good decade of creative work?
- What does modern research say?
The picture is complex but encouraging concerning driven individuals in their 30s.
Why Many Creatives Peak in Their 30s
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of self and a creative drive alongside the demands of modern life. The stressors become extra complex when you tie in the urge to turn your creativity into a business or earn money from it.
That being said, some individuals see an explosion of creativity in their 30s and early 40s for a variety of reasons. It seems if you wish to hit your peak, it’s best to build off what you’ve learned and done before.
Two great articles to check out:
- When you will most likely hit your creative peak, according to science
- Human creativity: Writers, artists and composers tend to peak in their late 30s and early 40s
As someone who writes, composes songs, and hopes to dabble in design, I find the above information comforting as I move forward with my 30s.
However, it’s good to be aware of a lot of factors that may cause someone to peak, one being “career age” and not just “actual age.”
Check out the graph below:
As time marches on, in most domains it takes a lot of work to accumulate all the knowledge that came before. Therefore, many professionals are reaching their creative peak and making an original contribution later in life. (So while Einstein’s greatest work was conducted in his mid-20s, this situation is basically unheard of regarding scientists today.)
“Yet by the Century's end, any physicist who died before the age of 30 would probably remain on heard of… The age at which people receive their first patent across a wide range of fields in business and government has been increasing at a rate of 6 to 7 years per century.”
- Geoffrey Colvin
A Note About Epic Creativity and Motherhood
As you probably inferred, the 30s can become extra complex for creative women and mothers. (For some inspiration, I wrote an article about new parents who embrace creativity and domestic challenges.)
When I began songwriting, I noticed early on how many of my favorite female writers, musicians, and scientists from history quite frankly did not have kids. Given the below list, I was torn about what to do (but found it to be one of those things you just don't talk about):
- Georgia O'Keeffe, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Barbara McKlintock, Virginia Woolf (from history)
- Fiona Apple, St. Vincent, Gillian Welch, Stevie Nicks (and many others) are modern examples
“Women who win an entry in Who’s Who are four times more likely than similarly illustrious men to be unmarried. Moreover, those successful women who fit marriage into their lives are three times more likely to be childless in comparison to equally successful married men.”
- Dean Keith Simonton (creativity researcher)
I obviously think this is a societal issue, a cultural hangover, and not on the shoulders of women themselves, nor is it a reflection of their creativity compared to men.
Later on the author mentions the successful writer Anne Sexton, whose mode of working serves as an example for many mothers:
“Anne Sexton wrote prizewinning poetry in the corner of her dining room, taking advantage of whatever moments she could steal from raising two children and house-keeping.”
As someone who chose to have children, but still wants to embrace my creativity, I’ve had no problem finding numerous examples of creative mothers online.
There are a plethora of them in the podcasts I listen to and the videos I watch. It seems the online world has become their modern playing field (a slight adjustment from Anne Sextons “corner of the dining room.”)
7 More Reasons Your 30s Could Be Epic
- You trust more ideas will come
- You care what the right people think and forget the rest
- You have life experience to build off
- You are probably more flexible about your potential
- A fully developed frontal lobe helps you navigate risks responsibly (big bonus)
- Your intense and lifelong interests are obvious by now
- You’ve practiced the process of creativity in other ways
If I hold this list in the front of my mind while diving into creative tasks, I feel excited about growing older with children and the work that may result. In a culture obsessed with youth and high accomplishment at a young age, I hope you found this article helpful.