Creative pursuits aren't just important for school-aged kids, and there's a scientific reason to back up.

It’s often assumed that creativity is for the young. That first album, painting, film, or book—an artist’s built-up creativity pours into it, sometimes never to reach the same heights. But that’s not the whole story. A recent study from The Ohio State University found that there are actually two creative peaks in a person’s life: one in their mid-20s and another, much later, in their mid-50s. Interior designer Rayman Boozer knows that as well as anyone.

Boozer is the founder of design firm Apartment 48 and has been called the industry’s “color guru.” But no one starts out as a guru. “What I’m doing now used to be my hobby, and now it’s my career,” he says. Boozer, like most people, started out as more of a junior employee, without the power to follow his vision or do exactly what he wanted to do. But the work he did then—even if he wasn’t being paid for it—allowed him to remain creative even now, 25 years after Apartment 48 opened.

Image courtesy of Nick Parisse for Apartment 48.

The Ohio State study defined two particular types of creativity: conceptual and experimental. The conceptual innovators tended to have that early peak, but the experimental ones had the later peak. That experimental creativity is born of consistent efforts in a person’s early years. For Boozer, while he was working his early jobs, he followed his obsessions: fashion, travel, and interior design. “I couldn't do it during work, but after work and on the weekends I could do whatever I wanted, so I would spend time going to home furniture stores, looking for ideas and talking to people in those stores about how they got started, and asking a lot of questions. I was probably super annoying,” he laughs.

None of this was really a conscious job-building decision.“I didn’t know I was preparing for it, but I was,” he says. Even when just a child, Boozer was practicing. “You know how magazines always show you a photo but they don't show you the full room? I would always try to extrapolate what the rest of the room would look like and draw it out,” he says.

That’s textbook experimental innovation, as The Ohio State study lays it out. The researchers in that study describe experimental creatives as accumulating knowledge throughout their lives, to apply to their work later. Boozer says that he’s always working: much of his inspiration comes from places that aren’t directly related to his work as an interior designer. Fashion shows (especially women’s fashion, he says), movies, and travel are all major inspirations—he doesn’t take notes, but he’s building a mental Pinterest board of images that can be interpreted and applied to his work.

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s that creativity works in different ways. You should follow your passions as deep as they’ll take you, because, for experimental creatives, that actually is work, of a sort. You never know what’ll end up helping you later.


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