With the right environment, the right nutrition, and the right support system, the first two years of a child’s life are full of periods of rapid growth. Then that growth pattern changes to periods of slow or no apparent growth punctuated by periods of growth. As a kid, we’re always pining for that next growth spurt, wishing we could be twelve, or sixteen, or twenty-one—now.
Most of the readers of this blog are far enough along in adulthood that we’ve forgotten the misery of “growing.” We’ve forgotten we can go through growth spurts too, though typically it is not a rapid change in our physical height and weight. Adult growth spurts occur in our personal development. Unlike when a child has a growth spurt, adults don’t wake up one morning and their once-too-long pants are suddenly too short or knock their knees on the once-too-tall school desk. Their growth spurts are usually much more subtle than the physical ones of childhood. Often, adults don’t recognize that a growth spurt is happening. It can be even more difficult to recognize creative growth spurts.And while you cannot control exactly when a growth spurt will happen, you can take charge of your next one.
The Five Areas of Personal Development
Most personal development gurus will tell you that there are five main areas of personal development. A lack in any of the five areas can hamper your creative development.
In the physical area, there is potential for growth AND development. By development, they mean through physical exercise. Not that everyone needs to prepare to compete in the next Iron Man competition. But you need a process to develop and maintain optimal physical health through your sleep habits, diet, and exercise. Optimal physical health is different for each person based on their physical limitations, medical limitations, job requirements, activities of daily living, and their living environment. Your aim is whatever wellness level is achievable for your body.
2. Cognitive (Mental) Growth
This area of personal development includes mental aptitude, the way you think, your mindset (growth or fixed), and how your mindset and brain functions affect your behavior. You spent time in school developing this area. Unfortunately, some adults decide they don’t need to continue developing their cognitive abilities after they finish school.
3. Social Growth
The social area of development includes communication skills such as listening, and expressing one’s self, relational skills, as well as awareness, mindfulness, and interpersonal and relationship skills. These skills are essential to creatives. But wait, you say. Creatives are most often introverts, so we don’t possess those skills. Wrong. Jung defined introverts as those who turn to their own minds to recharge, while extroverts get their energy needs met by being with other people. Introverts can enjoy being in social situations, can have exceptional social skills, but they need that introspection time to recharge.
4. Emotional Growth
The area of personal development called emotional is about learning to evaluate and process your emotions, to express your emotions effectively. It’s about self knowledge, resilience, relationships, and boundaries.
5. Spiritual Growth
The spiritual growth area of personal development is about connecting with yourself and finding inner peace. You can find inner peace by practicing a religion or meditating, by getting out in nature, or through music. The pathway isn’t as important as the connection and inner peace.
Did you notice what’s missing? They’ve either ignored creativity as an area of personal development or they lumped it in with one of the other areas. I agree that personal development is important and is part of creative development. But creative development and creative growth spurts are in their own class.
How Personal Development is Important to Creativity
The higher the level of wellness (physical growth) you have, the more you set yourself up for future creative growth.
To become your best creative self, you need to continue to work on the growth and development of your cognitive abilities. Everything from your mental aptitude to the way you think to your mindset affects your creative abilities.
Creatives who wish to sell their work to even one other person need their best social skills (even more so than marketing skills.)
The self-knowledge that comes from emotional growth is crucial for creatives. You make your strongest work when you connect it to your emotions. Those emotions connect your work to your intended audience.
Creatives need the inner peace of spiritual development in order to have the strength to explore the emotions, the thoughts, and or the relationships that inspire our creations.
What Is Creative Growth and Creative Growth Spurt?
Perhaps you think that creative growth is when you come up with a new, previously unknown, idea. Perhaps you think that creative growth only comes from proficiency of skill. That is only one area of growth. Growth happens because of an increase in knowledge, an increase in awareness, an increase in skill, or an increase in ideas. Each of those things can happen, and often happens, independently. This sets up growth, but the process takes weeks and months, even years. However, because a creative growth spurt is more rapid, it is more observable.
A creative growth spurt often appears to be a rapid change in our creative abilities, a leveling up of our skill. It happens when we expand our knowledge or our skill. It can happen because we’ve taken in the knowledge too rapidly. Sometimes it happens because of a long accumulation of knowledge or practice. And I swear, sometimes it just happens, like there’s a secret DNA signal that triggers it.
I’m in one of these creative growth spurts. It’s something that I’m really excited about and it surprises me—but I’m not too, too surprised because I was also waiting for the day that I felt like this again, and I knew it would come.”Nas
“Nas is Back in the Studio: ‘I’m in a creative growth spurt”
Set Yourself Up for Your Next Creative Growth Spurt
Whatever stage of creative ability you’re at, if you seriously want to experience creative growth of any kind, you must have a growth mindset. This mindset is one that sees creativity as something you can learn and is open to feedback. A growth mindset embraces challenges, accepts flaws and mistakes as opportunities for improvement, and recognizes setbacks as part of the learning process.
You must also have the motivation, or desire, to make as much effort as it takes to learn. It takes effort to find where you can learn, whether that is by physical books, internet articles and classes, or in-person classes. The self-discipline to pursue the learning and to continue the practice despite the flaws and mistakes and setbacks is another necessary component.
An appropriate workspace and access to the tools you need for your creative pursuit are also necessary.
Know what areas you are weakest in. Decide if you want to improve on a weakness or on a strength.
Research that area as deeply as you can. Fill your creative well with that information.
Finally, you must put in the practice for as long as it takes. Be prepared for it to take a lot longer than you want it to take. Sometimes this is more difficult for those with intermediate-level skills than the beginners. Patience is key.
How do I know I’ve had a Creative Growth Spurt?
Just as there are symptoms that tell you a child is in a growth spurt, there are symptoms of creative growth spurts. During a growth spurt, a child is hungry for food all the time. A creative in a growth spurt is hungry to learn, hungry to practice, or hungry to do.
Your sleep pattern changes…either you’re tired all the time or you can’t sleep. A rapid change is often exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Be careful. Extreme fatigue can stunt a growth spurt.
You may experience frustration and irritability. Often, your frustration and irritability is a byproduct of the lack of sleep. But it can be a kind of itch—that feeling that something is on the tip of your tongue but is still unreachable. You feel driven to do one more hour, one more repetition, convinced that’s when you’ll relieve that itch.
A baby’s brain physically enlarges with the rest of their body as they grow. Adults aren’t so lucky, but my theory is that the synapses in your brains grow more agile or even increase in number without a change in the physical size of your brain. You make connections you hadn’t previously been capable of making.
Suddenly, you’ll experience an abundance in your area of growth. Perhaps, like Nas above, you’ll experience an abundance of energy for the making of the thing. Writers may discover the words fly out of their fingertips. Knitters may discover they are overflowing with ideas for patterns. Programmers find their way out of an “unfixable” corner.
You’ll know you’re in a creative growth spurt because what had seemed impossible isn’t difficult anymore. Sometimes you only know after the fact. That’s okay.
What to Do When in a Creative Growth Spurt?
Many personal development gurus will tell you as soon as you’re aware you’re in a growth spurt to get more books, take more courses, learn more. But is that the best way to take advantage of a growth spurt? Here’s some suggestions that may help you make the most of yours.
Put the books down, stop the classes, or whatever input you’ve been consuming.
Focus on the change.
Journal, discuss, or make a vision board of how you plan to implement the change in your daily creative practice.
Put that plan into action.
Document what happened. Put a note on your calendar, journal, frame that bit of coding, or hang that knitted blanket on the wall. Celebrate. At the very least, pat yourself on the back!
Everybody’s journey is unique. But if you are on a creative pathway, you can actively pursue creative growth. You can take charge and set yourself up for a creative growth spurt. And I will cheer you on from the sidelines!