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Curiosity, being childlike and Questlove’s experience getting older

Being childlike is important to creativity. Children are curious; they ask questions about everyone and everything. They don’t care who is better. They don’t care about their egos. They don’t care if someone is stepping on their own creativity. They play with abandon and talk to famous people with the same irreverence as the talk to their parents and friends.

“When I was ten, I was curious with reckless abandon. There wasn’t any fear about consuming things: if they interested me, I took them in. I ranged far and wide because I wanted to see what was out there,” says Questlove. “Now that I’m older, I’m more cautious. I’ve whittled my influences down to my pantheon of drummers and singers and guitarists, and it’s hard for new people to crack the shell.”

In “Creative Quest,” Questlove calls this a “hardening.” He says that there are some artists about whom he “feels a certain way,” which he explains is “nuanced form of snark.” It allows him to slow roll “whatever envy you admit by not admitting.”

This not-quite jealousy keeps Questlove from listen to a few artists “at all.” It may be that he doesn’t want to be influenced by or learn more about the artist or he feels a certain way, and “it gets worse with age.” Questlove recognizes this as a problem, this “brittleness,” and he says that as a person ages, he or she is going to have to deal with it.

There are a million reasons why its hard to be curious as you get older. Even with the Internet, it’s harder to satisfy that curiosity. Who has time to find out and understand why solar panels work? Who wants to learn new information that could challenge old, long held beliefs? Who wants to find someone younger doing something better in the same field wherein they both work?

It’s easier to keep on living with the information that one has accrued and not to challenge that status quo in one’s own life, even when one specifically self-describes as a creative. It’s much harder for people who think they’re only a little creative or they’re not creative. However, adopting a childlike acceptance of your own limitations and taking wonder in what other people are doing in your field (like children at play) will help you become more creative and have better ideas. It’s in the challenge and the questioning of the status quo that creativity thrives. Find the space that allows you to play, to be curious and to create.

For more on creativity and Questlove, check out: “‘The Pirate Union’ and collaboration” and the links at our Creativity page.

If you liked this essay, you can get more in ‘Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.’ To improve your creativity, get ‘Disneyland Is Creativity.’

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