Sunday, February 5, 2012
Tapping Into Your Creative Brain
In our pursuit of Living More Than OK, which is moving beyond mere boring existence, creativity is important to build into our lives. We tend to think of creativity only in the realm of the Arts: music, painting, poetry, theater and dance. These are important and I encourage people to grow their talents in one or more of these. Yet it is important to remember that creativity has a greater impact in all areas of life. Creativity can be used in solving problems, coming up with new ways to keep relationships fresh and alive, or discovering new ways to enjoy life. It is up to each of us to choose to tap into our creative side.
This brings me to a book I highly recommend to help you tap into your creativity. The book is Your Creative Brain , by Dr. Shelley Carson, a professor and researcher at Harvard University. In the opening chapter she states, “We are all creative. Creativity is the hallmark human capacity that has allowed us to survive thus far. Our brains are wired to be creative,…” This reminds me of the words of creative writing professor, Brenda Euland, “…you are all original and talented and need to let it out of yourselves; that is to say you have the creative impulse.” We are all creative. I like how Dr. Carson mentions it is the hallmark human capacity. When I visit the zoo I do not see turtles and bears painting murals on their habitat walls. As I visit the monkey area I have never seen one typing out a new fiction novel on its laptop. Creativity is one of the things that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Dr. Carson in her book helps us to see how expansive creativity can be into all areas of our lives if we are open to tapping into what she calls the CREATES brainsets. Her hypothesis she sets forth is what I see as 7 thought patterns we have that relate to creativity in our thinking. Her seven brainsets are:
Connect – Looking for connections between items and ideas to come up with new ideas and solutions.
Reason – Making use of the information you have and analyze and organize it for problem solving.
Envision – Using your imagination to explore the possibilities and answer the “What ifs” that come to mind. This reminds me of possibility thinking.
Absorb - This is opening your mind to new ideas and experiences and savor how these new ideas can shape and form something new and creative.
Transform – Dr. Carson says of this, that it is our tapping into our negative energy and distress we may be feeling. We can then transform the pains of life to solutions for future situations. For me it is reminder that we can choose to remain bitter over pain and hurt or transform and learn to be more empathetic to others going through pain.
Evaluate - This is the critiquing phase of looking at creative ideas and seeing which is best to follow.
Stream – This relates to Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow where creativity seems to be in oneness with our activity and thinking.
Her book goes into detail of her seven brainsets and gives practical exercises at the end of each chapter you can try out to improve your creativity. That is the important help in this book as she shows we are each wired for creativity and that we each can improve our level of creativity.
I want to just share a couple of important helps from the book to help you in your quest to improve your creativity. Then also this may encourage you to seek out this book at your local library or local bookstore. The first item is that a way to being more creative is to continue in lifelong learning. Be open to studying new topics and ideas. This helps build a broad based foundation of general knowledge for the Connect brainset. Don’t be narrowly focused in just one area. Dr. Carson provides examples of great people with broad based life experience. Benjamin Franklin was a writer, philosopher and inventor, John Grisham was a lawyer and now a writer, Leonardo Da Vinci was an inventor and an artist. I remember I had a physics teacher who brought in his cello to class and played for us students. Just recently I heard a jazz combo with a killer upright bass player. I found out his day job was that of a math teacher. So be open to adding variety to your ideas and skills.
Then also here are some of her ideas to help improve your creative mood of the absorb brainset: Make a playlist of inspirational songs that help encourage creativity, find a relaxing spot that quiets your mind, (hopefully this is a place linked to nature), Take a walk in a favorite natural setting like a park or beach, or carry a notepad or digital recorder to capture creative ideas you may have.
I hope by now if you started with a “But I am not creative” mindset you have changed your mind. This can be a first step to improve your creativity and help you in Living More Than OK.
Reflection: I want for this reflection to use one of Dr. Carson’s exercises from chapter 10.
Feelings: Describe Your Feelings
Aim of exercise: To better understand and describe your feelings. You will need a blank sheet of paper and a writing utensil. This exercise will take around 12 minutes.
Procedure: Sit in a quiet place and try to step outside your current feeling state and observe it objectively:
Write down a description of your feeling state. What emotions, moods, or affect are you feeling right now? Try to write at least 3 sentences that describe how you feel.
Now write what physical feelings you are experiencing right now. Scan your body for any area that might feel tense, painful, or constricted. Write down these physical feelings. Do you think they are related to your feelings? If so, write down how your think your current physical and emotional states are connected.
Now think about your mental state. Are you having trouble concentrating due to your feelings?
Finally think about your action tendencies. Are you feeling the urge to act in a certain way? Run away or escape, lash out at someone or something, disappear into the floor, put your arms around someone?
The goal of this exercise is to write a detailed and precise a description of your feeling state as possible. When you’ve finished, read over what you wrote. Does it adequately describe what you are feeling?
Try to do this exercise at least once a week. It will provide insight into your feelings and also develop your skills for self expression. This exercise will also help you develop emotional intelligence, a quality that will enhance your creative work.