I is for Imagine: How Creativity Works

I is for Imagine. That is the book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.

It’s pretty interesting, filled with lots of stories and anecdotes. The stories come from all over, from business, science and art.

Basically it says, anyone can learn how to use their imagination and be creative. It says the normal beliefs about creativity and the imagination (beliefs all involve the muse) but that instead it’s really different thought processes. Anyone can be imaginative; you just need to know how to think.

It talks about insight and hard work. Apparently all you need is a moment of insight, followed by tons of hard work. It reminds me of Thomas Edison quote: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. It emphasizes how much work people do after they get their idea. Getting an idea to work isn’t easy or fast.

Insight is basically an idea about something. An idea how to solve a problem, an idea about what the problem is to begin with, a new piece of art.

He talks about insight and the brain. Apparently the brain uses different areas when it’s in the middle of an insight. When you are creating something new (musicians improvising is the example he uses) the area of the brain associated with self-expression lights up and changes happen in the impulse control section of the brain, too. The language and speech production parts of the brain become more active, too. (He compares music notes to words; music patterns need to memorized like nouns and verbs and so on.)

So it seems to me that no self-control plus self-expression plus bone-deep knowledge of basics equals creativity.

No impulse control means you don’t dismiss an odd or dangerous idea the moment it occurs to you. It is easier to be brave, I think. Or maybe that’s foolish. LOL It is easier when you are relaxed. I mean, how many eureka moments do you have when you are tense and thinking too hard? Sometimes you need to do something else and let go.

The bone-deep-knowledge-of-basics thing is more important than it sounds like. You have to be bit of an outsider to the problem. Being an outsider makes it easier to think outside the box. Easier to see the issues sometimes. The outsider bit is why most new ideas come from blending different fields. Different cultures, different ways of thinking.

He says that’s why group creativity is important. People are more creative in groups than by themselves. Apparently group work has been studied –  Broadway musical, Pixar, traders. The most successful musicals were the ones with a mix of artists, some new, some who know each other. Pixar forced its people to go to the same bathroom so people from different departments talk to each other. The traders who talked the most with other people were the most successful. (It sounds oddly like networking to me.)

Cities are most creative of all! LOL Despite the internet and how it connects people, nothing can replace the city! It’s how you meet lots of different people, from different places. It makes you more aware of stuff that is different elsewhere. Travel does this, too. That awareness and random conversations with people sparks the imagination, too.