All humans are born creative. It is our birthright. What is interesting though is that none of the people we call creative 'geniuses' has ever been able to actually pinpoint where creativity comes from. Some have attempted to, but no-one has ever said they have discovered it.
We live in a time when enormous advances are being made in the study of the brain and its processes. Neuroscience has greatly benefited from advances in MRI scan technology and more. So what can the latest research tell us about creativity?
Researchers at University College London have been studying the different brainwave patterns during the creative process and can now define the different stages of how we come up with new ideas and concepts. This is great news if you want to make a breakthrough in a current project.
Firstly we need to understand that the brain will always take the easiest route when challenged to produce something new. It's actually quite a lazy organ. Coming up with completely new ideas means pushing it beyond its first response. We are conditioned to give the 'right' answer, so the first response will generally be based on memory. Next it will come up with an innovative change to that memory ie different colour, but not a completely new concept.
To come up with new ideas we have to create entirely new connections between our memory and brain neurons, the electrical 'information messengers'.
1) The first step in this process is Preparation, as in preparing the ground. The keyword for this process is absorption. Absorbing absolutely all the information you already have about what you want to do. It is this long, all-engrossing focus that triggers the brain to start working on your behalf.
2) The second step is Incubation. Now step away totally and give the brain time to prepare itself. It will provide you with the answers you want when your brain has 'downtime' to do its processing and subconsciously form new connections. It's a vital part of the process. Take a holiday, change your surroundings, go for relaxing walks. Daydream.
3) The next stage is Illumination. The brain has processed all the information, subconsciously created new connections and then comes the 'Eureka' moment. The creative idea is still raw though and this is when bringing it 'out there' too early results in discouragement.
4) The final stage is Verification. This is the tweaking process. Taking time to prepare it for the reality of the outside world. So many great ideas get shelved because this important part of the process is passed over. Our education system teaches us to give the 'right' answer. When a raw idea has not been through this tweaking process it sounds 'imperfect' and will often meet with criticism. We take this as meaning our ideas are flawed and they get squashed.
In fact our mainstream education system actually trains us to avoid being creative. Ask a group of five to six year olds, "Who can draw?" and every child will put up their hand. Ask the same question to a group of fifteen year olds and you might get a few hands raised. By training young adults to pass tests and punish them for getting the 'wrong' answers, we are actively discouraging creativity. This is because of a 'filter' system that exists towards the front of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area prevents us from doing anything rash. It controls impulsive thoughts and can also prevent ideas from taking place and surfacing. By learning techniques to deactivate this filter on demand, we can essentially allow a much freer flow of creativity.
So what can we do to improve our free-flow? The answers lie in step two of the creativity process. The Incubation stage. This state of encouraged relaxation is when we are using more theta brain waves. Theta state is when brain waves are slowed down to a frequency of 4-7 cycles per second and it actively encourages creativity. It is also associated with super learning, daydreaming and deep meditation. Do you remember as a child going off into an imaginary world? This is the Theta brain wave state and children spend a lot of time in theta. It's the gateway to our imagination and also where we experience deep spiritual insights. Spending quiet time in nature encourages it. Meditation also allows the brain to slow down and access it and binaural beats are an increasingly popular way to deepen the process. The ThetaHealing® meditation technique is a pathway that directly connects with the theta brain wave state and is easily learnt. Spending more time in theta helps you become less stressed, less anxious and most of all is a great way to create new pathways of illumination. Enjoy!
©Nancy Green, Art in Theta.com 2016
References: Prof Vincent Walsh, University College London
ThetaHealing®meditation technique http://www.thetahealing.com