Day 13 – CREATIVITY: Identify ways in which you express your creativity every day. Today, allow something unpredictable and joyous to express through you. Write about it.
‘Creativity is about liberating human energy.’ Howard Gardner (American psychologist and educator)
Last week I spent time helping my friend Natalie edit an assignment for her writing class. For a long time she’s verbalized that she should write her memoir, but didn’t think she was creative enough to write. Natalie is an engineer by trade who, on numerous occasions, have said, “I am a left brain thinker, give me numbers all day and I am happy. I don’t think I could ever sit down and focus on putting words together to write my story. That’s not fun to me.” It’s an interesting statement because I run from numbers. Well, I’m happy to say that she is facing her fear head on by attending a writing class that is giving her confidence to explore her creative writing side, as well as, give her the tools that will help her write her memoir. She has an interesting story to tell.
Are we solely Left brain or Right brain thinkers? Natalie’s mention of being a left-brain thinker put me on the road to look into this Left-brain vs Right-brain thing.
To get through our day-to-day, we must use both sides of our brain to make sense of the world we live in; however, research has shown that each of us have a dominant side, which makes up a larger part of our personalities, hence Left or Right brain. Well, most of us have been exposed to information regarding our brain hemispheres. Left-brain thinking, sometimes labeled “the judge” consists of: language, numbers, words, science, logic, reasoning, objective, and analysis. On the other side is Right brain thinking, sometimes labeled “the artist”. Characteristics include: emotions, imagination, subjective, intuition, holistic, art, and music. Now, Scottish researchers have added new terms to our understanding of the brain hemispheres – “Hard” and “Soft” thinking. These new terms are associated with creativity and reflect the neurological processes associated with the left and right hemispheres of the brain. (1)
In other words, Left = Hard, Right = Soft.
“Hard” thinking is verbal and understands symbols. These thinkers process information in an analytical and sequential manner – they first look at the small pieces of a situation or issue then put the pieces together to get the whole picture. In contrast, “Soft” thinking is visual and responds to color and shapes. These thinkers process information in an intuitive and simultaneous way – they first look at the whole picture then breaks it down into small pieces to grasps what’s going on. (1)
This information is useful for researchers, therapists, educators, trainers, but for the layperson such as me, I just think it’s fun to have this knowledge in my back pocket. I gravitate towards “Soft” thinking using the Right side (the artist) of my brain, but experience has shown that I can’t successfully maneuver through everyday life by just using one side of my brain so I had to develop the muscles in the Left side of my brain for communication and logical thinking. I must employ both sides in order to solve problems and to be creative.
So, even though Natalie believes she is a Left/Hard thinker who only understands numbers, she, like everyone else, can develop her Right/Soft brain hemisphere just by being curious and having the willingness to try something new. Many researchers indicate we can develop a creative state of mind and foster creative habits by:
- Overcoming the perception that ‘I am not creative’
- Expect the unexpected
- Have fun playing with ideas
- Practice not knowing – tolerate ambiguity
- Be curious
- Face your fears
- Share your ideas with other people
- Be proactive and “Just Do It”
We can display creativity in many ways. Researcher Zoran Ivcevic Pringle found that people who participate in any form of creative activity such as: taking photographs, writing, singing – tend to be more “open-minded, curious, persistent, positive, energetic, and intrinsically motivated by their chosen activity”(2). Over the years, I’ve noticed that people who tell me that they are not creative tend to be those who are afraid of failing, so they don’t risk anything and remain in their disillusion that they are not creative.
Stanford Ph.D. graduate Roger Von Oech, whose focus has been in the study of creativity, believes that creative thinking involves both “Hard” and “Soft” thinking (“judge” and “artist”) and both are required to bring about creativity. Even those who are naturally inventive and thrive on spontaneity need to seek logic and be analytical if they hope to be successful in life (1).
I was in my 30’s when, for the first time, friends told me that they saw me as a creative person. Prior to that, “creative” was never a term paired with the person I saw myself (creativity was not stressed in my childhood home). I always equated creativity with famous inventors, designers, and artists. I wondered, “What do they see that I do not see in myself, and why haven’t I heard this term in respect to me before?” I then thought about what naturally fueled my interest and got me excited: Music – I was in the orchestra and choir when I was a kid, but I also escaped into storybooks. Modeling – as a teenager, I loved coordinating clothes/shoes and showing it off on the runway (I even won a scholarship to attend the local modeling school). Decorating – I still love arranging furniture and accessories. Color – I absolutely hate rooms with bare white walls; they must have color of some sort. I’ve owned two homes so far and in each home all my walls were painted. When I rent a living space from a landlord that does not allow me to paint, I fill the walls with colorful photographs (some of them my own) and paintings. Come to think of it, my office space is very colorful as well.
Samples of my need for color in my house:
Intellectually, I may not have equated my interests as being “creative”, but I now see that I have always gravitated towards using the Right/Soft side of my brain. Unfortunately, due to the sh*t I dealt with in my formative years, my creative side was not nurtured. Living in survival mode does not leave room for fun. Thank goodness, I am past that and now I get to play and explore the things that bring me joy. I am drawn to color and shapes, but I also love the use of words and logic. I might not be a famous inventor or a designer, but I am filled with joy when I take photographs, write, paint, solve puzzles, and collage, just to name a few. Yes, I embrace my creative side, now I encourage others to explore theirs!
Creativity brings joy: “It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.” ― Jiddu Krishnamurti
The main take way on creativity:
- Most individuals believe they are not very creative. Creativity is not just about special people doing special things. We all have the potential to be creative and creativity is a skill that can be developed.
- Creativity embraces both hard and soft thinking, left and right brain. The most powerful creative thinking occurs when the left and right hemispheres of the brain combine to apply both creative and evaluative processes.
- Stop holding yourself back in thinking you are not creative. Get out of your way (or out of your head) and take the leap, try something new.
Note from Del — This post took longer than usual to write (a few days) because I kept having “Aha” moments regarding my own creativity. Thank goodness for writing, this was very cathartic.
Tomorrow’s Preview: Day 14 – HUMILITY: Making mistakes is part of learning and growing.
**Season for Nonviolence campaign, also known as The Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence (SNV), asks us to focus our attention on attaining peace through nonviolent actions. More info at: http://www.agnt.org/season-for-nonviolence**