The Question

There are a ton of lists scattered over the Internet on the routines of creative minds, on ways to boost creativity, on creativity itself and what it might take to be a creative individual.

To philosopher, filmmaker and host of Brain Games,Jason Silva we’re born artists and are born to be ecstasy seekers. So,what happens after? Do we lose our creativity along the way? How do we decide our own levels of creativity as we grow older?

The subject of the right and left side of the brain frequently plays into the exploration of creativity. The “split brain theory” suggests that each side of the brain is responsible for different tasks. While the left enables analytical and verbal tasks, the right develops functions in space perception and music. If your right side is dominant, then your creative language is stronger.

Scientists have long debunked the theory as myth, with a recent group illustrating how the right brain/left brain theory is absolute crap.

“Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.
Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification-- consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.”

The study divides the creative cognitive process into three sections: The Executive Action Network (when a task requires focus), the Imagination Network (when you think beyond the present and create alternatives for it) and the Salience Network (the one that monitors the internal and external consciousness exchange). All three sections are a part of being creative.

Along with the right brain left brain see saw, the study of creativity also mentions flow state. Flow state is a descriptor for the “optimal state of consciousness”, when focus comes naturally and you create effortlessly, like you cannot figure out the source of what’s making its way out of you. Also known as being in the zone when the rest of the world disappears.

But the trick is, what might feel effortless during the flow state actually comes from the practice of developing that flow state and learning to be acutely aware of when it’s happening to you and then capitalizing on it.

Cyphers are excellent examples of this process. A cypher is a setting for a freestyle rap battle and involves participants creating rhymes, often complex, on the spot.

When you are in a cypher you have no choice but to be in the moment- to pay no attention to what comes after, because you’re so caught up fitting words together that the world outside and another’s judgement or your own finds no room in your brain. It’s insane to think of this as a a possibility of the human ability. There’s a video of Kendrick Lamar’s visit to an English Class that is an awesome capture of this.

Discovering creativity

You forego the opportunity to fine tune your flow state.

If creativity is not about the part of the brain you use and if your flow state is a product of practice and discovery then what gives the term “creative” all the value it holds? Why is the term an automatic indicator of a personality or lifestyle type? How did it gain all this weight?

Successful creative folks live a high stakes reality before seeing their time in the matrix, and then continue doing so as they keep creating. Working multiple jobs, performing at open mics, submitting writing pieces to random publications is what’s led to the “starving artist” imagery handed down throughout centuries. The greatest works could take a minute or a year or many more years and lot more perseverance and commitment than you could imagine. It could have you revisiting, reassessing, realigning before you think it’s ready.

Are you creative?

Regardless of your field, when you express creativity you reveal a bit of yourself and therein might lie the source of the weight we attach to creativity. The “you” is not hidden.

The thing with being creative is not that some are creative and some aren’t. It’s about deciding how you feel about the term creative. Do you attach that enormous weight to it- the one where whatever you create has to be fantastic? Do you hit a block and decide you’d rather not push back? Or do you decide you do not want to put in the time it takes to become good at the creative field you choose?

On writing, Ta Nehisi Coates, a journalist and recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant says:

"I always consider the entire process about failure, and I think that's the reason why more people don't write…Breakthroughs come from putting an inordinate amount of pressure on yourself and seeing what you can take and hoping that you grow some new muscles. It’s not really this mystical – it’s like repeated practice over and over and over again, and suddenly you become something you had no idea you could really be”.

If you look at it, your response to whether you are creative or not isn’t a yes or a no. It’s layered in its translation into your abilities.

You can’t really turn creative. You are always creative. And that otherworldliness? It’s within you.

Your creativity is only yours to discover.

Creativity or creative works make their way to dinner table conversations, first time introductions or even dates. Whether it’s the work of a few centuries ago like that of Shakespeare or van Gogh, or the works of today like that of Kendrick Lamar or Ai WeiWei, creative output can legitimately feel so beyond you and your abilities because of its inherent otherworldliness.

When interacting with work of such brilliance, it’s all too easy to quickly run backwards into you comfort shell.

Are you creative? Not if these guys are.

When you return to your shell, whether the pen is your master or the paint brush your tool, you find comfort in hiding, in creating whatever you want to ,away from others. Creativity, in your shell, is not a matter of opinion. It’s only a result of you and what you create.


Understanding Creativity

Finding your flow state, however, could come with a bundle of despair. Writer’s block, artist’s block, creative block. When you hit these walls during the creative process, you tend to stop and sometimes quit.

“Nah, I’m not creative. Stick figures are my best friends and the fact that I can put words together, at times logically, is shocking.”

To be creative often feels like you must belong in another world.

Your creativity finds a conscious agency in you before you help it enter the world. And it must enter the world because a creative mind shares a symbiotic relationship with the world.

For instance, when you hear a great song or a great comedy routine, you want to share it with others. You want to take a little bit of that artist that you witnessed and decided was awesome, and let others in on it. Observing what’s external, connecting it to the internal and transforming it into something new is a function of the creative mind.

Creativity by default is self expression. That’s why art is subjective and that's why self expression cannot have a criteria for judgement. Of course there are some creative endeavors that turn successful when it appeals to a majority. This could be a book, a play, a song, a poem, or a painting. When these creative products see so much success and permeate our daily lives and culture, the potential impact of creativity becomes obvious. It is exhilarating to learn of that potential, but also terrifying to know of the flip side of that success- if it can be that great, it can also fail just as much.

And that changes the game.

When you bring creativity into life’s game, you are willingly and openly bringing an authentic side of yourself to the forefront. You are placing your vulnerabilities out in the world.

Credit: Ryan McGuire

But, by not pushing through the block or rather by not accepting its existence and figuring out a way to move past it, you deprive yourself the chance to really discover what makes you create.

Credit: Ryan McGuire

Credit: Joseph Barrientos



observe. write. express.


Copyright 2016

Wandering Local. Design by Imagyne.


Copyright 2016

Wandering Local. Design by Imagyne.





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