Topics such as ways to enhance the mind or your creativity have always interested me. I’m very much a believer in things such as astrology, numerology, ability to see/feel the future or events. Call it what you may, but there are infinte possibilities out there and we need to be open to everything.
That being said, is there a way to enhance creativity? I believe there is but I also do not believe that there is any one exercise, process or procedure that can help achieve this.
For example, before I started travelling internationally my viewpoints were really limited to what I saw on TV, read in newspapers, magazines and books. Though I’ve always been open minded, it was difficult to expand your viewpoints unless you can experience something different.
As I started travelling more and seeing the world, meeting other people I could better appreciate what I saw on TV and other media.
Creativity works in the same way. You need to expose yourself to other people, places and ideas.
For example, I love to write. I’ve always had an interest in writing short-stories (science fiction). I don’t really have a knack for it – but how can I develop my skills? Read. Read other stories, look at how other authors pick and choose their words, look at how they cultivate the story from beginning to end. I don’t want to emulate what they’ve done — my writings would not be original or ‘me’ but it would give me more insight into how to write.
Developing and enhancing your creativity is a similar process.
I read an excellent article by Keith Sawyer just recently entitled The Hidden Secrets Of The Creative Mind. I will post some of the more interesting points from the story, but the full URL is shown below.
Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., associate professor of education and psychology in Arts & Sciences, is one of the country’s leading scientific experts on creativity. His research spans creativity, collaboration, learning and play. A jazz pianist for more than 20 years, Sawyer combines his research expertise with a strong hands-on background in real world creativity. His eighth book, Explaining Creativity, was the subject of a recent Time magazine interview.
What is creativity? Where does it come from? The workings of the creative mind have been subjected to intense scrutiny over the past 25 years by an army of researchers in psychology, sociology, anthropology and neuroscience. But no one has a better overview of this mysterious mental process than Washington University psychologist R. Keith Sawyer, author of the new book Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation (Oxford; 336 pages). He’s working on a version for the lay reader, due out in 2007 from Basic Books. In an interview with Francine Russo, Sawyer shares some of his findings and suggests ways in which we can enhance our creativity not just in art, science or business but in everyday life.
QUESTION – Then how do you explain the “aha!” moment we’ve all had in the shower or the gym — or anywhere but at work?
ANSWER - In creativity research, we refer to the three — or the bathtub, the bed and the bus — places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged. When we take time off from working on a problem, we change what we’re doing and our context, and that can activate different areas of our brain. If the answer wasn’t in the part of the brain we were using, it might be in another. If we’re lucky, in the next context we may hear or see something that relates — distantly — to the problem that we had temporarily put aside.
So remember earlier where I said that as I travelled more, understood other people and cultures I could better appreciate the world around me? In the same way Dr. Sawyer explains that the “aha” moment comes when we use different parts of our brain; that’s why many people suggest that you should get away from what you’re doing and look at the problem from a different light.
For example, when I’m developing scripts or software and I’m stuck on how to do something – I stop working. I may go out for a walk, or just stare out the window. By giving my mind a break I feel as if my subconscious is still working on the problem and soon enough the solution surfaces and the answer is as clear as day.
QUESTION – How have researchers studied this creative flash?
ANSWER – By using many cleverly designed experiments. Some psychologists set up video cameras to watch creative people work, asking them to describe their thought processes out loud or interrupting them frequently to ask how close they were to a solution. Invariably, they were closer than they realized. In other experiments, subjects worked on problems that, when solved, tend to result in the sensation of sudden insight. In one experiment, they were asked to look at words that came up one at a time on a computer screen and to think of the one word that was associated with all of them. After each word — red, nut, bowl, loom, cup, basket, jelly, fresh, cocktail, candy, pie, baking, salad, tree, fly, etc. — they had to give their best guess. Although many swore they had no idea until a sudden burst of insight at about the 12th word, their guesses got progressively closer to the solution: fruit. Even when an idea seems sudden, our minds have actually been working on it all along.
This would seem to validate what I thought all along. Eventhough I’m not actively working on the problem – my subconsious is.
The final bit that I’ll snip from the article are these two Q & A’s:
QUESTION – Are there other generalizations you can make about creative people?
ANSWER – Yes. They have tons of ideas, many of them bad. The trick is to evaluate them and mercilessly purge the bad ones. But even bad ideas can be useful. Darwin’s notebooks, for example, show us that he went down many dead ends — like his theory of monads. These were tiny hypothetical life forms that sprang spontaneously from inanimate matter. If they died, they took with them all the species into which they had evolved. Darwin spent years refining this bizarre theory before ultimately rejecting it. But it was a critical link in the chain that led to his branching model of evolution. Sometimes you don’t know which sparks are important until later, but the more ideas you have, the better.
QUESTION – So how can the average person get more ideas?
ANSWER – Ah, here’s where we come up against another of our cultural myths about creativity — that of the lone genius. Ideas don’t magically appear in a genius’ head from nowhere. They always build on what came before. And collaboration is key. Look at what others in your field are doing. Brainstorm with people in different fields. Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that distant analogies lead to new ideas — like when a heart surgeon bounces things off an architect or a graphic designer.
The article is excellent reading, and I would highly recommend that you read it. Here is the URL to the page that hosts the article. You can read the full article by following another link on that page.
From the entire article, which can be found on the Time website this one line stuck out to me the most:
All the research shows that the creative process is basically the same: generating ideas, evaluating them and executing them, with many creative sparks over time.