In the last fifteen years, science has penetrated deep into the ways creative insight is generated in our brain. One thing the research makes abundantly clear is that our old ideas about creativity are all wrong. Most especially, what science has learned topples the old belief that creative genius is a gift only the few receive and that it requires hard work, intense focus and emotional pain to develop into something meaningful. It turns out that the polar opposite is true. Here are a few of the myths that the research on creativity has dispelled.
Myth #1: We have tended to assume that some people are genetically gifted with creativity while others are genetically excluded. Creativity is not a fixed property of the brain that some have and others don’t. Creative intelligence is latent in every human being. It doesn’t take much to tap this innate potential. Simply placing people in a room painted blue can double their creative output. It’s because the color blue intimates the sky and the ocean. In fact, scientists now speculate that anything that invokes a peaceful response in us increases creativity.
Myth #2: We assume that creative people are highly focused. The fact is intense focus comes at the expense of creative insight. A recent study led by Dr. Holly White at the University of Memphis found that attention deficit turns out to be a creative blessing. Students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) got significantly higher scores on tests that measure creativity. Additionally, White’s investigation found that people with ADHD win more prizes in every field, from art to science to drama to engineering.
Myth#3: We tend to assume that the discipline of creativity means you put your nose to grindstone. But research bears out Einstein, who said “creativity is the residue of time wasted.” Research has established that a routine dose of free time is the key to innovation and peak performance. You can work with intensity for eight hours straight but you’re not likely to generate any big insights. Taking a break from work and letting your mind wander cam increase creative intelligence by 40%. 3M, the most innovative companies in the history of capitalism, allows their employees to do whatever they want with 15% of their time.
Myth #4: We assume we have to suffer in order to create. It’s the starving artist and the crying clown. David Lynch, one of America’s great filmmakers, visual artists and composers says creativity is not suppose to hurt. He said this about creativity.
“If you are suffering — even a little bit of suffering – it cuts into your creativity. In fact, the more peaceful, the more wide awake, and the more rested you are the better it goes. Then the ideas can flow way better, way smoother, and faster and more of them.”
The research of Mark Beeman of Northwestern found that getting people to laugh and relax by watching a comic like Robin Williams increased their creative capacity by 25%.
The creative power inside you is not only vaster than you can imagine; it’s easier to access than you might think.
Read my previous blogs on how to increase creative insight.