"Creative Life Cycles : Three Myths" is a paper / essay on the relationship between creativity and age. The three myths the author wants to debunk are all around that theme:

  • that creativity is greatest in youth
  • that wisdom hinders creativity
  • that every discipline has a single peak age of creativity.

He makes the distinction between conceptual creativity, which he claims peaks at a young age, and experiential creativity, which improves steadily with age if nurtured.

Annoyingly he never takes the time to properly define what he means by these terms. As far as I can tell conceptual creativity involves working with abstract concepts and combining them in novel ways, while experiential creativity is a byproduct of a slow compounding of knowledge and incremental improvements over a lifetime.

Mark Twain for example, was an experiential creative, and he wrote his greatest work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in his later years:

For Twain, experience was what brought fiction to life, and it could only be the product of deep knowledge of a subject: “Almost the whole capital of the novelist is the slow accumulation of unconscious observation—absorption.” This required time: “The life, the genius, the soul of a people are realized only through years of absorption.”

Although I mostly agree with the author's claims, I'm not sure I'd recommend reading the paper – it's quite repetitive and light on substance. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention is a better read, even though like the author, I disagree with some parts of the book.