Ever wonder how singers like Jay-Z or Gwen Steffani continue to turn out hit songs one after another? Do you ever question how a scientist comes up with a brilliant invention? Have you ever been doing absolutely nothing and all of a sudden you think of the solution to a problem that’s been wracking your brain for weeks?

These are all examples of creativity - A process that is developed, not an instant eureka moment. Whether it’s coming up with a new song, invention or solution, they seem like they take no effort at all but actually require careful thought. As Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Did You Know?
The etymological root of the word creativity comes from the Latin word “creatus,” which literally means “to have grown.”

But what exactly is going on in the brain during these moments of inspiration? While no one really knows for sure, some research findings suggest that creative people start thinking in an uncontrolled and disorganized way, where a part of the brain called the association cortex becomes active. This association cortex is able to link up ideas or thoughts in potentially new ways.

It seems that creative thought in general involves looking at things from new perspectives. While I surely don't claim to be a creative genius, I have noticed that I came up with the most creative ideas and thoughts when I didn't have too much background knowledge on a subject; I didn't have a particular way of thinking and so my creativity was not held back!

The reason for this, as scientific research shows, is because most of us have formed definite neural pathways of thought; we use routine ways of thinking and so we don't have much flexibility within our thoughts to think differently than from what we are used to.

Did You Know?
Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old.

Creativity has also been found to be associated with right brain activity. Unlike the left brain, which focuses on the logical and rational elements(like when studying math and science), the right brain is responsible for the more abstract, intuitive thinking and tends to see the whole picture (like when painting a picture).

This is also seen in creative people’s personalities, since they tend to enjoy adventure,exploration, like to think about things in shades of gray, and don’t like being controlled by rules.

This is not to say, however,that creative individuals don’t rely on the left brain activity at all.In fact, creative people use many parts of their brain; in order to produce something worthwhile, discipline and commitment, which derive from left brain activity, are necessary.

People who are really serious and determined to explore their creative side develop and practice various ways of capturing new ideas. Artists carry sketchpads,writers carry notepads or palm pilots.

Salvador Dali, for instance, actually used to get ideas for his paintings from a semi-sleep state. What he would do is lie on a sofa and hold a spoon in one hand, balancing it on the edge of a glass placed on the floor.Then, just as he’d drift off to sleep, he would release the spoon and the sound of the spoon hitting the glass would, naturally, awaken him.Immediately, he’d sketch the bizarre images he was seeing in his half-asleep state.

Anyone can do this, after all we all have bizarre images just before we fall asleep, but Dali simply developed away to hold onto these images. And that’s creativity!

So how can you develop creativity? Try to solve a question that doesn’t really have a clear solution – like “You have 24 hours in which to bring about world peace. How do you do it?”

While one shouldn’t expect to find a real solution to these types of problems, one will surely stimulate a lot of creative ideas.

The bottom line, then, is that every creative act starts out from something unknown, and perhaps even uncomfortable, since creativity is about creating something new.

So if we view the world with openness and curiosity, which the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind,” we then see the world as full of possibilities; possibilities which can then be thought about in a creative way.

Learn More!

Artistic Creativity and the Brain. Click Here

Left and Right Brain Thinking. Click Here

Scientific American Article: Is it true that creativity resides in the right hemisphere of the brain?

By Marina Veprinska

Article first published March 20, 2007


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