Guest post by Hunter Gardner
The brain is complicated, and peeling back the layers has shown that previous ideas about how the brain works have been flawed. For example, humans do use more than 10% of our brains and people are not definitively “left-brained” or “right-brained.”
This got us thinking, with all this new knowledge about how the brain actually works, what does your brain really look like during the creative process?
In a 2013 PopTech talk, Scott Barry Kaufman says that, “creativity and human cognition more generally doesn’t arise from a single bit of the brain or solely from a single side of the brain, but the whole creative process from that first burst of inspiration to actually getting the job done and everything in between, requires an interaction of lots of cognitive processes and emotions, and depending on…what stage of the creative process you’re in, different brain areas are recruited to help solve the task.”
In other words, there is not a switch between either side of the brain, but rather both sides of the brain work together to help complete a creative task.
The brain works in networks, some of which “look out” when trying to concentrate or recite memories, and others that “look in” while the brain is in a more restful state—like when we daydream. These two processes are equally important when it comes to our creativity. Reflection, compassion, imagination and simulating the minds of others all comes from looking inward, while execution comes more from looking outward.
Kaufman points out that while the inward (e.g. ideation) can be suppressed by the outward (e.g. someone needing your direct attention), the most imaginative people can actually run both of these systems, always having the inward, reflective process running (in a part of the brain called the precuneus).
Another thing more creative people are able to do is cognitively connect with their work in what Kaufman calls “flow.” This is what happens when you become so enthralled with your work that you hardly notice time pass. To get into your flow state, you must silence your inner critic—allowing you to tap into your inward looking process.
Lastly, after the creative process is through, we must heighten our ability to be critical in order to know if what we created is valuable to our end goal.
So, release yourself from self-criticism. Allow yourself to have some uninterrupted time to think, and exercise the imagination. When combined with connecting patterns and execution, you may find your brain is far more capable than you had ever imagined.