Are You A Right-Brained Creative?

February 19th 2008 - Yes... it's a modern day Stephen Strange

Where does creativity come from?

No, it doesn’t come from the strike of lightning bolt or a handful of hallucinogenic drugs.

Although the movie Gothic depicting English Romantic poets Mary Shelley and Lord Byron taking drugs on a rooftop in the midst of a thunderstorm might lead you to think so. Dramatic, yes! And far from the truth.

(The movie chronicles the summer when Shelley wrote Frankenstein.)

Defining Creativity

What is creativity?

Creativity is a mix of original thinking, ingenuity and innovation. It’s the tendency to generate unconventional ideas and spur the imagination.

Some people seem to have a raw talent of tapping into their creative spirit. Actually, much of that is the affect of encouragement and opportunity. They don’t get discouraged easily.

And creativity is also the effect of practice. Creative people exercise their own creative process frequently.

Creativity Is Not Linear

I like to write. I fell in love with writing in eighth grade when English teacher Dr. Jennings made us journal every day. It was during those junior high puberty years that I began to realize one could manipulate words to make people feel emotions, to conjure up imagination and to persuade others to do something differently.

However there were days where writing was a struggle. It felt stilted and my creativity stifled.

It’s the same today. Put pressure on me that I must write something in a short time and it crushes my creative spirit.

Creative thinking is tumultuous like a roller coaster ride. It’s not linear and predictable. It’s jumpy and often feels uncertain. It’s not a serene boat ride in New York’s Central Park.

Right Brain Creatives?

Popular junk psychology makes broad characterizations that people are either logical or creative. This junk theory states that the right side of the brain is more creative dealing with visuals, language and artistic endeavors. The left side is more logical interpreting lists, numbers and analytics. And people are either logical left-brainers or creative right-brainers.

In reality, people are always using both sides of the brain. While right or left brain dominance is measurable, these logical and creative characteristics are in fact existent in both sides. The dominance is not a biological trait. Rather it is a learned skill through practice and experience.

So don’t get hung up on brain hemisphericity, whether we are right- or left-brainers. Our mental activity is actually a sum of its parts.

And creativity is a whole-brained function.

Everyone Can Be Creative

It’s wrong to think that only some people are blessed with creative genius. It’s equally wrong to think that all creative people are born right-brainers while all left-brained people are orderly and analytical.

Brain scans document that when people are being creative, both the right and left brain share the task equally. The mind is not taken over by some higher power during the creative process. Creative ideas are birthed when imagination and analysis work in tandem.

Everyone has the ability to be creative. It is not some magical state of mind. It’s actually a series of actions that depend on logic and applied thinking.

What barriers keep some people from accessing their creativity? Why do most business professionals avoid giving their imagination free license to think creatively and have fun?

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  1. Sam Smith says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Interesting topic. I think Neuroscience has a lot to offer us here. According to David Rock most insights or ideas occur so quietly that we miss them. They are drowned out by the many things that are happening around us: kids, deadlines, tweets, text messages, TPS reports, etc. He says that we all have these insights. It is when we can slow down, take a walk, reflect quietly, etc. that these insights can actually bubble up to the surface.

    Also, Gregory Berns does a nice job of describing where good ideas come from in his book Iconoclast. He talks about how fear distorts our perceptions of reality and how fear prevents us from sharing our insights and ideas. I think there is a lot to this.

  2. Traci Browne says:

    Fun post Jeff…and hopeful for those who have been told (or are telling ourselves) they are just not “the creative type”. I think the #1 answer to your question, “What barriers keep some people from accessing their creativity?” is teachers, parents, colleagues and bosses telling us “that won’t work” or “we’ve tried that before, it doesn’t work” way too many times.

  3. Jeff,

    Another excellent post! Thanks for making relevant to the rest of us what you are learning about the brain.

    I find that I am creative from what would sterotypically be from both sides of my brain. I get the expected flashes of insight for fun or insightful ideas while on a bike ride or just waking up. But there are times when I am knee-deep in data that also can spark a creative idea.

    What I am just realizing is the ideas that come while not on task tend to resonate with more people, and the ideas that come from deep analysis are better appreciated by the core group of experts.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Great point that we miss insights or ideas because of all the noise and demands. It’s really about slowing down and enjoying life for sure.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Yes, I agree that often its our own friends, families and coworkers that tell us we can’t be creative or that “been there done that, failed” discount. We have to be aware of those voices and place emphasis in the little train that could. 😉

      Thanks for reading and commenting. So appreciated.

      I’m with you (and Sam) that ideas come to us when we get away from trying to force the creative process. I also like what you identified that ideas that come from deep analysis are often appreciated by the experts. So true!

  4. Jeff, yes as they said another great post. I agree with the comments as well – I think that for creativity to have time to gel you do need “white space” to do that in – in a cube, phone ringing, email coming in etc… As the Creative Director at our company I can assue you that I don’t do my most creative work between 9 and 5 – making me highly normal!

    I am sure you have read Michael Gelb – such great books on creativity and innovation and whole-brain thinking. I never get tired of reading his work. Especially Wine Drinking for Creative Thinking – well actually I like them all.

    Your posts always make me think and spark an idea – for this I thank you very much. Tahira

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Ooo, Tahira, that sounds like a great book…Wine Drinking For Creative Thinking. I’ve not read that one. Will add it to my list.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. And glad it sparks some creative thinking and ideas too!

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