Building the creative muscle

April 18, 2008

Robert Genn

Ever since I was a kid I've been interested in the nature of
creative thinking. Where does it come from? Can it be learned?
Can it be taught? I've been curious about my own periods of
creative intuition and creative ineptitude. I've also been
interested in the difference between "wild child" creativity
and mature creative self-management.
Most of our creativity takes place in the right back corner of
our brains. In addition, many folks are able to toss the
creative ball both fore and aft and port and starboard. Studies
of various brain disorders and traumas have thrown further
light on the game. Anne Adams was a Vancouver, BC, scientist
and painter who recently passed away from the effects of PPA.
Primary Progressive Aphasia patients eventually lose their
ability to speak. Anne tracked the progression of her disorder
in a remarkable series of paintings. As her condition deepened,
her creativity seemed to move to a different part of her brain.
Her work became more linear, mathematical and ordered. One of
Anne's paintings, "Unraveling Bolero," takes Maurice Ravel's
"Bolero" and makes it visual. Ravel, who died in 1937, also
suffered from PPA. We've illustrated some of Anne's work at the
top of the current clickback. See URL below.

Neurologist Bruce Miller of the University of California in San
Francisco notes that one part of the brain can learn to do what
another part becomes incapable of. While modifications take
place in the process--as in muscle building for specific
sports--by persistently asking, we get. With curiosity,
audacity and effort, creativity can be redeployed. Just knowing
it's there for the taking is part of the game. Sophocles said,
"Look and you will find it; what is unsought will go
undetected." Like Anne, we need to be prepared to let
creativity take us where it will.

We all have personal keys to developing our creative potential.
For some it's necessary to remain mute--for others a mild
distraction is needed--music, even TV. Our individual
preferences in reference material and experience are precious
triggers. Studio tricks, attitudes and physical exercises
jiggle the liquid brain into building the creative muscle. Our
miraculous computers are forever rebooted. These days we seem
to be able to modify and improve the performance of just about
anything. Not including the use of drugs, you can train your
creative brain to be brainier than you think.

Best regards,


PS: "If one part of the brain is compromised, another part can
remodel and become stronger." (Dr. Bruce Miller)

Esoterica: The idea of "wild child" creativity developed from
the "noble savage" concept of the 19th century. These days,
most of us try to know ourselves and manage our creative
development. Doing what we can with our given abilities, we
stretch ourselves when needed. The regular and reapplied art of
stretching typifies the creatively evolving brain. In my
observation, creativity is a self-motivated neural thing that
becomes a winning habit.