- A relaxed state of mind is important for creativity, more important than relentless focus. Trying to force insight can actually prevent it. Directed daydreaming -- musing on the thing you want a creative solution to, while walking or showering, say -- works better. Though classroom teachers and sometimes parents may go half crazy dealing with daydreamers, these are the folks who are going to invent things and solve problems. We need them, and we need them not to change!
- Stimulants such as caffeine, Adderall, and Ritalin make creative epiphanies less likely.
- However, these drugs make tedious details more interesting, and increase short-term memory. This is why writers, mathematicians, and scientists have taken amphetimines while revising, or when trying to fit diverse ideas together. They see more trees, but tend to lose the forest.
- Undergrads with ADHD, in fields such as drama, art, and science, were found to be more creative than people without the disorder, both in creativity tests and practical applications, such as having won science fairs or ribbons at juried art shows.
- Being surrounded by blue walls makes us more creative. (I knew there was a reason all the rooms in our house are blue. :)) Scientists say that we associate blue with sky, sea, and horizons, and alpha waves in our brains increase.
- Travel increases creativity, because when you're in a place where you're the outsider, you don't have your surroundings in their usual boxes. "Our thoughts are shackled by the familiar."
- Cities increase creativity for much the same reason. We think in new ways when we're exposed to variety.
- Brainstorming doesn't work! Studies have shown that a group comes up with more and better ideas if they work alone and later pool their results. Brainstorming groups are normally directed to throw ideas out there without criticizing them. But studies have shown that including debate and criticism in a group discussion produces better results. This seems counter-intuitive; for so long we've been sold on the idea that everybody is "right." However, say the scientists, if everyone is right then there's no real incentive to embrace the other guy's thoughts. The absence of criticism keeps everybody in the same place -- where they were when the meeting started. Example: John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were competitive and prickly together, and it drove them both to produce better music.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
I've been reading Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer, which explains what's going on in the brain when we create. Here are some interesting tidbits from that book. Some are intuitive, but at least one is counterintuitive, which I always find fascinating. And naturally I can't resist a bit of my own commentary.