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Creativity - All You Ever Wanted to Know

Updated on February 23, 2015
The Creative Power of the Brain is Immense
The Creative Power of the Brain is Immense | Source

“Creativity is not a solitary movement. That is its power. Whoever is touched by it, whoever hears it, sees it, senses it, knows it, is fed. That is why beholding someone else’s creative word, image, idea, fills us up, inspires us to our own creative work. .” --- Clarissa Pinkola Estes – ‘Women who Run with Wolves’

IQ and Intuition

It has long been believed that IQ levels are related to creativity. However, today research reveals that intuition is the one quality vital to the creative process. And women possess intuition in abundance. They only need to know how to tap it. “You don’t have to have a high IQ to be intuitive,” says Frank Barron, a psychologist who has measured and observed creativity for the last 40 years. “Intuition depends less on reasoning and verbal comprehension (the main measure of IQ) than it does on feeling and metaphor.”

Creative Men and Academic Failures

There are plenty of historical instances of creative individuals who were poor students. Thomas Edison was at the bottom of his class. William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw were poor spellers. Benjamin Franklin was bad at math.

Exercise can Boost Creativity

Researchers say that exercise and physical activity increase the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural opiates. This puts you into a kind of altered state. Neuroscientist Candace Pert says: “Creativity comes from the spiritual realm, the collective consciousness. And the mind is a different realm than the molecules of the brain. The brain is a receiver, not a source.”

Don’t tell People to be Creative

Psychologist Colin Martindale believes that when one wants creative people to perform creatively, one must not ask them to perform creatively. He says this focuses their attention while the creative state of mind is essentially a broad, unfocused state. “By focusing your attention, you essentially defeat creative efforts”. Unfocused attention and decreased brain metabolism might allow creative ideas to emerge – as in the altered dreaming state.

Says researcher Buchsbaum: “Perhaps ideas are held back by active brain areas.” German physicist Freidrich Kekule describes a dream that threw up the answer that had eluded him for many years:

“The atoms wriggled and turned like snakes. One of the snakes seized its own tail, and the image whirled scornfully before my eyes. As though from a flash of lightning.”

As Kekule explains, the circular formation of the snakes in his dream was almost like a mirror image of the actual benzene molecule.

Reclining Figure - Henry Moore
Reclining Figure - Henry Moore | Source

Where Good Ideas Come From

Is Creativity Rare?

“The creative act has a quality of wholeness that calls on motivation, experience, and personal style. It’s the entire self that creates.” – Frank Barron, Psychologist

Is Creativity a Rare Phenomenon?

Do you believe like do some researchers that creativity is confined to the Einsteins, Tchaikovskys and Picassos? If you do, it’s time to change the way you think and recognize that any act is creative when you do it right or better. Let us then define creativity in the simplest way possible: Creativity is using the intelligence and imagination to make up something new, fresh and lasting. It is transforming the old into something better.

This done, a whole new world of ‘creative’ acts opens up. It could be a housewife creating an embroidered cushion cover, a mechanic putting together an engine in a different way, a person successfully solving a problem , a writer looking at an old theme in a new manner. Psychologist Abraham Maslow says: “It is better to make a first-rate soup than a second-rate painting.”

Is Creativity a Gift or a Learned Skill?

If you believe, as Maslow does that making a first rate soup is a creative act, you will realize that one can learn to make great soup with the help of a recipe and some practice. Sure some like Tchaikovsky are born with the gift of creativity but even this great composer believed that this gift did not come free. It needs to be earned. In a letter he wrote in 1878, he reveals his conviction about the perspiration –not inspiration -- method of working:

`There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands in the pretext that he is not in the mood.’

Isaac Newton often singled out as the most brilliantly innovative and creative scientist of all time knew that he did not create his ideas in an intellectual vacuum. He wrote: “It is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

Shakespeare borrowed freely from other writers living or dead for his plots. Whether the creative person is modifying or improving techniques already used or creating a revolutionary new technique, it is essential that he works through those that have gone before.

Originality is not Novelty for its own Sake

Let us not confuse originality with novelty. A monkey for example, banging away randomly at a typewriter may create something novel – different from anything that’s gone before. Anyone can do that. But to create something new and original is writing your name on minds and hearts, and sometimes even history.

The poet Stephen Spender writes: “Night, dark, stars, immensity, blue, voluptuous, clinging, columns, clouds, moon, sickle, harvest, vast campfire, hell. Is this poetry? A lot of strings of words almost as simple as this are set down on the backs of envelopes and posted off to editors or to poets by the vast array of amateurs who think that to be illogical is to be poetic, with that question.”

Of course the answer would be “No, this is certainly not poetry.”

Implicit in the creation of something original is the skilful bending or breaking of rules. But for that to happen, one must know the rules. The well-known jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong illustrates this beautifully. For example, he would, instead of hitting notes on a regular beat, lag behind a little or a lot to give added tension to his solos. He had found his own ‘musical voice’ which served to redefine the term ‘jazz’.

“It’s not creative unless it sells.”

So said the legend of advertising David Ogilvy. For a work of art or science , or a piece of advertising to be truly creative, it must have inherent and lasting value. It must appeal to a whole lot of people. I have a couple of copywriter friends who have flashes of brilliance which never sell to a client because they lack inherent value and so end up saying nothing about their product. A lot of people believe these writers to be original, but what is the use of originality that withers upon the stem and is forgotten?

So to be a truly creative individual, you do not only need ‘creative abilities’, you also need determination to realize your objectives. You need the personal style Frank Barron speaks of.

Passion is Essential for Creativity
Passion is Essential for Creativity | Source

Einsteins's Brain and the Creative Process

What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’ --- Geothe

Einstein’s Brain

For a long time it was thought that the size of the brain and the number of corrugations on its surface were linked with creativity. And then they studied Albert Einstein’s brain which lies in a jar at a laboratory in Wichita, USA. In size, shape and number of corrugations it is unremarkable. So are the brains of many other creative individuals. But Einstein’s brain, according to Marian Diamond, a neuroanatomist, has more glial cells than the brains of eleven other male brains she studied. These are neuron-nourishing cells which have been found to support active nerve cells. And glial cells divide unlike the brain’s neurons. If you lose a neuron, it’s forever lost.

As scientists probe the brain for its secrets, it appears that nervous activity has something to do with creativity. There is no doubt that this happens in the brain when we think. In his 1984 Reith Lectures on BBC Radio, the American philosopher John Searle argued that: ‘Mental phenomena, all mental phenomena whether conscious or unconscious, visual or auditory, pains, tickles, itches, thoughts, indeed all of our mental life, are caused by processes going on in the brain.’

Inside the Thinking Brain: Making Sense

By attaching electrodes to the scalps of volunteers while they perform some special task, researchers have been able to measure the changes in the electric signals generated in the brain. At the University of California Steven Hillyard and his colleagues asked the volunteers to listen to sentences whose sense depended on the last word in the sentence. The classic example of a nonsense sentence was, ‘He spread the warm bread with socks.’ The brain generates a characteristic signal about four-tenths of a second after hearing this sentence. It does not do so when the sentence makes sense. This goes to show that there is a physical basis for our ability to discern. We all know what makes sense and what doesn’t, yet the actual site of creativity in the brain is yet to be uncovered.

Does creativity stem from the right hemisphere of the brain?

Harvard University psychologist David Perkins contends that there is no justification for assigning such abilities as math and music or general faculties like intuition and rationality to the left or right hemispheres of the brain. For while the right side is great at spatial perception and pattern recognition, and the left side at speech, reading, writing and logic, both sides interact in complex ways not yet fully understood.

According to neuroscientist Candace Pert, science will eventually demonstrate that the frontal lobe is the most important in creative thought. “There are about thirtyfold more receptor sites in the extreme front of the brain than in the parietal lobes. ..The receptors may filter incoming sensory information. You become plugged less into reality and more into an advanced consciousness. Such a filtering of reality may be conducive to creativity.”

More energy, More Thought

Every thought requires energy. The more complicated the task, the more blood flow is required to that particular part of the brain. In the 1960s Per Roland in Copenhagen demonstrated that different parts of the cerebral cortex receive increased blood flow during different types of thinking. For instance, while recalling something from visual memory like a face or a photograph, the superior parietal lobe at the back, as well as other parts towards the front become activated. The recalling of words however, requires increased blood flow to the temporal lobe. Does this mean that to be creative one must eat well? After all, it’s food that gives us energy …perhaps that is why they say one must begin the day with breakfast!

More Passion, More Creativity

Ray Bradbury, one of the most well known science fiction writers today nurtured a passion for Shakespeare, dinosaurs, Tarzan and the Bible He is the author of twenty books including ‘The Martian Chronicles’, ‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘Dandelion Wine’ and the screenplay for Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. According to Bradbury the secret of creativity is passion: “…So it’s just living day to day, one passion after another and just trusting all your passions that later accumulate on eighteen different levels.

A good example is someone like the archaeologist Schliemann. Homer spoke to him in his sleep and in his waking hours. And Homer said to Schliemann when he was a boy of ten, eleven, twelve or so: ‘Troy exists – it really exists – even though everyone else says it doesn’t exist. Don’t listen to them!’…And he went when he was fifty-five or sixty, I think, with his wife, and he dug a few miles north of where Homer said to dig, and by God, not only was Troy there, but nine levels of the city of Troy…And when he left, thirty more Troys were discovered. Not only were the doubters wrong, they were wrong thirty-nine times! So there’s your metaphor for creativity. There’s a Troy in you that needs to be dug up. Don’t listen to anyone. Go do it. And if you don’t find anything there, at least you can say you dug.”

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius

Beatrix Potter Author of the ‘Peter Rabbit’ books lost some of her imaginative drive when she lost her singlehood.
Beatrix Potter Author of the ‘Peter Rabbit’ books lost some of her imaginative drive when she lost her singlehood. | Source

Double Your Creativity Singly

“Creative artists are quite likely to choose relationships which will further their work, rather than relationships which are intrinsically rewarding, and their spouses may well find that marital relations take second place…It is also not unknown for creative people, once they have achieved an intimate relationship to lose some of their imaginative drive.” – Anthony Storr –‘Solitude’

As a creative soul I can vouch for this observation by Anthony Storr. So could well known children’s writer Beatrix Potter who lost some of her imaginative drive when she centred her emotional life around a lover. So could countless other creative types, be they artists, writers, or scientists. The great composer Beethoven; author Truman Capote; scientist Sir Isaac Newton; poetess Emily Dickenson; actor Al Pacino; playwright Noel Coward and hey – popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey are some of the examples of creative souls. Actress Julie Christie of `Dr Zhivago’ fame considered marriage an outdated institution and parenthood unnecessary.

Is that surprising when you consider how most of your thoughts, waking or sleeping focus on your lover? The touch of his hands, the feel of his lips, what you will wear next to titillate him haunt you constantly, leaving hardly any place for constructive creative thinking. You waste a lot of time and energy on something that could very well be transient. Whereas a piece of creative work you can always call your own. Your creativity will never let you down because it will always be there – within you. What is without is often transient. You don’t need to be a great philosopher to see that all around you.

Says Anjali Rao, a designer, “You’re not totally focused on your creative endeavour when you have a man on your mind all the time. A man can distract you and take lots of your time. He’ll want you to go out with him constantly and when you refuse, he’ll get mad or sulk. He will be possessive and resentful about the time you spend on your work. Also my success could make him insecure especially if he’s not doing too well himself.”

For me, as a writer of fantasy, there is absolutely nothing that can rival the process of ideating and writing. Fantasy, after all, is the creation of new wolds and makes you feel like a goddess. True, a man can make you feel like a goddess too – but the charm wears off soon enough.

So if there is that creative spark lurking within you, dear reader, let it blaze forth in all its glory for it’s a flame that will never go out.


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    • Anita Saran profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Saran 

      5 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Thank you so much for the comment. Happy to connect with you too!

    • CrisSp profile image


      5 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      What awesome write! Very delightful, very informative! Happy to connect and here's to our courage in creativity!

      Absolutely passing this along! Great job!

    • Anita Saran profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Saran 

      5 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Thank you Very Much! It's a Pleasure to Write for Hub Pages.

    • Karmallama profile image

      Doreen Lucky 

      5 years ago from St. Paul, minnesota

      Very well written! Very good subject matter. I appreciate the effort and thought put into this.


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