Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reset Sunday: Imagine

The Creation of the  Birds, Remedios Varo
I just finished reading Imagine by Jonathan Lehrer and would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to pull aside the veil and peak at what happens in the brain during flashes of inspiration, creative problem-solving, and careful and sometimes arduous crafting. Lehrer relates the findings of various psychological studies and brain imaging to reveal insights on the workings of creativity. This book is full of valuable information for artists, inventors, scientist, and the insatiably curious. It is not the full story. There are still many questions and alternate interpretations of the data but it opens an interesting dialogue and gives you a place to begin with your own exploration of how you experience creativity internally.

For this week's Reset Sunday I thought I would make a list of some of the discoveries in Imagine that really struck me. These should be fun concepts to play with and explore in our lives over the next week and see how they impact our personal creativity.
  1. Relaxing and Un-focusing the mind to create fertile ground for the Flash of Insight. If you meditate, you may be familiar with this mind set already. After you have spent some time focusing on the breath or a single point of awareness, you can start to let your consciousness spread outward becoming very receptive. You are not directing your thoughts anymore they are simply rising and falling across your consciousness as you observe. If you have been working on a project and hit a creative wall, accessing this relaxed mind can help the pieces to fall together in a new and clearer way. You can help to initiate this mind set by going on stroll, taking a shower, or laying in bed for a while after you awaken. You let you mind wander and you simply watch and stay alert to your daydreams. I remember when I was in college, I would do all the research for a paper and jot down some some hints of what I was trying to distill and express but couldn't quite grasp yet. Then, I would go and take a shower and watch as my ideas aligned themselves in surprising ways.  Warm rushing water helped my thoughts coalesce and then, I would be ready to write.
  2. Happy moods seem to be conducive to flashes of insight and depressive or sad moods are conducive to editing, reworking, finishing and refining a project. Being alert to your emotional state can help to guide your creative work flow.
  3. The Benefits of Blue: There were some studies that showed priming the subject with a flash of  blue led to an increased amount of creative solutions. This would be an interesting one to explore on your own. Beyond just seeing if azures and periwinkles stimulate you imagination, you can also pay attention to what type of environments make you feel the most creative.
  4. The Benefits of Constructive Criticism: They found that constructive criticism is more helpful than a completely free and non-judgmental environment for brain storming. Especially, when problems are pointed out and ideas on how to fix them are presented together. So if you are working collaboratively don't be afraid to point out things that need improving or wholes in someones reasoning or methods (in a compassionate, gentle way of course). Or if you are working on a project alone, finding someone who can crit your project will help you to see what areas still need finessing or editing and which ones are best left alone.
  5. The Outsider Mind: Getting distance from the your field of creativity can help you to see your project in a new and unusual light. If you are a painter, having someone look at your work who doesn't know much about visual art can help give you a different perspective and see it from the outside. You can also finish a project and put it away for a few months and come back to it and see how you respond. Last, travel can help shift your point of reference and see your work from another angle.
I would love to hear about some of your personal experiences with creativity and what you have found to be most stimulating to your imagination. Happy creating and see you next week!


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