NPR has a good review of the book Imagine: How Creativity Works and an interview with the author, Jonah Lehrer, a writer about neuroscience.
Creativity and neuroscience — two topics that turn me on! So, oh boy, here are some excerpts I found interesting!
Lehrer defines creativity broadly, considering everything from the invention of masking tape to breakthroughs in mathematics; from memorable ad campaigns to Shakespearean tragedies. He finds that the conditions that favor creativity — our brains, our times, our buildings, our cities — are equally broad.
“I think one of the mistakes we’ve made in talking about creativity is we’ve assumed it’s a single verb — that when people are creative they’re just doing one particular kind of thinking. But looking at creativity from the perspective of the brain, we can see that creativity is actually a bundle of distinct mental processes.”
“… Whether you’re writing a Shakespearean tragedy, or trying to come up with a new graphic design or writing a piece of software, how we think about the problem should depend on the problem itself. Creativity is really a catch-all term for a variety of very different kinds of thinking.”
“The question becomes, what happens if you hit the wall? Because we’ve all got experience with this. You’re working on a creative problem, and then all of a sudden that feeling of progress disappears … What you should do then — when you hit the wall — is get away from your desk. Step away from the office. Take a long walk. Daydream. Find some way to relax. Get those alpha waves. Alpha waves are a signal in the brain that’s closely correlated with states of relaxation. And what scientists have found is that when people are relaxed, they’re much more likely to have those big ‘A ha!’ moments, those moments of insight where these seemingly impossible problems get solved.”
So get a massage if you’re blocked! It’ll help you relax, definitely take you into the alpha range, and probably into theta (toward sleep) for even deeper relaxation and access to even more resources.
“The brain is just an endless knot of connections. And a creative thought is simply … a network that’s connecting itself in a new way… There are all sorts of ways seemingly old ideas can get reassembled in a new way.”
You can read the whole article here. Click the link in the first sentence to order the book from Amazon.com.