Monday, November 12, 2012

Imagine - How Creativity Works. Part I: Insights

The Fusion mentorship program has made me think about creativity and so when I came across this book in our library - 'Imagine - How Creativity Works', by Johan Lehrer,  I just had to take it out. What an amazing book! He writes that our most important talent is our ability to imagine what has never existed! 

It explains various types of creativity (that it is a catchall phrase for several distinct types of thought processes.), their the biological connections in the brain, how to increase your chances of having creative thoughts, etc, etc. and he gives lots of examples.

The first part deals with insight creativity - those moments of insight when out of the blue a totally new solution comes to us. He explains how those will never happen until you are totally stumped in trying to solve a problem and have given up and then - and only then, will you perhaps end up with an insight that will lead to the solution. Feeling frustrated is essential to the creative process.

Brain studies have shown that scientists can predict up to 8 seconds before a creative insight occurs - there is a huge firing of steady alpha waves in the right hemisphere and then, as well, just before the insight occurs the visual cortex often is silenced. (We've often seen people cover their eyes when thinking hard.). If there are no alpha waves in the right hemisphere then the problem will never be solved, even if people are given obvious clues to the problem.

How to increase your chances of insight? Be happy, (watch funny movies, shows), relax,  no caffeine, no alcohol or drugs, (which all dampen activity in the right hemisphere), day dream (but it must the right kind of day dreaming where you are still somewhat aware so you can capture the daydream,) lay in bed when first waking up (that is when your right hemisphere is most active) and let your mind wander (set your alarm a bit early so you do not have to rush out of bed in the morning). I wrote about this in an earlier post - the creative writing course students at MISSA were instructed to take a nap in the afternoon to increase their creativity. Also by adding constraints to how a problem can be solved you are more likely to get stumped and so need to become more inventive - have to look beyond the obvious - like in Haiku vs "usual" poetry. Inability to focus - where you are open to all sorts of ideas and possibilities also results in more creative ideas. Being surrounded by a blue background rather than a red one also helps - just thinking of far horizons (blue sky) or beaches (blue water) increases the alpha waves in the right hemisphere.

Trying to force an insight - relentlessly focusing on it - has the opposite effect. It never gets you to the creative insight. You need to go away and do something different, forget about the problem. Do something to get you to relax and into a happy positive mood.
So do whatever it takes and let those alpha waves roll in!

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