“I can’t draw,” “I’m not good at music,” and “I’m not clever,” are common personal declarations, as if creativity were a characteristic someone either does – or does not – possess. Our culture often makes it seem like there are “the creatives” (think Mad Men and entire departments dedicated to the creative few in advertisement agencies) and then, the rest of us. Though based on myth rather than scientific evidence, the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance has ingrained in us that right-brain thinkers, typically skilled in practices like art or music, are gifted with creativity, while left-brainers — the science or math whizzes — are objective, logical individuals robbed of creativity.
Even if we start out as highly creative kids — making mixed media masterpieces of fingerpaint and dry pasta or building whimsical sandcastles on the beach — many of us start looking around at others’ creations and convince ourselves we are not good or inventive or original enough. We stop. We sell our creative dreams short. And then we don’t strengthen those neural processes that build creative thinking.
But it turns out that creativity is not produced by just one side of the brain or one “type” of person. Wired to Create authors Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire say that we’ve all got what it takes to be creative. According to the authors, creativity “draws on the whole brain. This complex process consists of many interacting cognitive systems (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions, with different brain regions recruited to handle each task and to work together as a team to get the job done.” Creative individuals may just be more skilled in managing these areas of the brain. As the authors illustrate,
“Creative people are particularly good at exercising flexibility in activating and deactivating these brain networks that in most people tend to be at odds with each other. In doing so, they’re able to juggle seemingly contradictory modes of thought—cognitive and emotional, deliberate and spontaneous. Even on a neurological level, creativity is messy.” — Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire
Fortunately, even those of us who would not check the “creative” box in a list of personal traits can take steps towards regaining imaginative expression. In her book, mindfulness and mind wandering, solitude and collaboration, and play and seriousness, that are all part of the creative process.Kaufman and Gregoire say that individuals can build creativity as a habit, a way of life, and an approach for engaging in the world. The authors discuss some clashing ideas, such as
And we must remember that the creative process is just that – a process. Creativity is not a switch one can simply turn on and expect to rub off on every future idea or project. While our sometimes-fickle creative juices may come through in late-night strides or run dry when we need them most, the good news is that there are steps we can all take to enhance our creativity abilities (or at least have fun in the process!).
5 Ways to Boost Creativity
- Color. It’s not just for kids anymore! As adult coloring books gain popularity, more and more grown-ups are turning to the childhood pastime for relief from stress and anxiety.
- Play pretend. Research shows that tapping into our own imagination can help us find inspiration, joy, and personal growth.
- Try something new. Eat something you’ve never had before, sign up for your first yoga class, or set out on a little adventure. When you experience something new, you open yourself up to new patterns and ideas, a step in the creative direction!
- Let your mind wander. Despite what we may have been told as children, daydreaming is not a bad thing! Wired to Create authors Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire suggest taking a five-minute daydreaming break every hour when working on an intense project or task. Doodle, sing, or shake it off to get those creative juices flowing.
- Take a mindful walk. Tune into the present moment and pay attention to how you are feeling right now. Don’t judge it as good, bad, right, or wrong. Just notice and accept it. Practicing mindfulness can lead to better concentration and emotional wellbeing, which are important for creativity.
Get to know your creative side — it’s been in you all along!
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