- Creativity resides within the unique neural structures peculiar to a single individual: nowhere else.
The external world — the world outside your body & brain, Harikirtan — is the same world for everybody.
You look at the moon, I look at the moon: it’s the same moon. We see the moon at different times under different atmospheric conditions: do these differences explain our individual creative output?
No — that’s not it.
With the exception of olfactory information, the external sensory data your body encounters in the world is recorded in the THALAMUS. Then this data is sent to your CEREBRAL CORTEX, where it’s processed and interpreted.
This means human creativity is determined by individual differences each person exhibits in their thalamus, in their cortex, and in the neural pathways between these two brain structures:
THALAMUS > NEURAL PATHWAYS > CORTEX = HUMAN CREATIVITY
Because our individual brains are all, to some degree, varied, creativity is inherent in Homo sapiens as a species.
(Which it’s not in other species — salamanders, for example — in which the neural path between thalamus and cortex is much shorter than our own.)
The world around us is the same: it’s we who are different, one to another. Such differences produce our creativity — our originality — as we work to make new things in the external world.
Observation is what generates creativity. We observe, we express, and we create. This is what our species does: we make things.
It’s why the best methodology for making art is to relax and be yourself while you observe, observe, observe and record, record, record.
Your way of portraying the moon will be different from my way of portraying the moon, Harikirtan, because our neural structures are different in some way … there’s nothing more to it than this.
The big wide world lies outside of our own body. The way we receive, interpret and express our place in that world lies within us.
NOTE: The thalamus is a small structure within the brain located just above the brain stem between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain and has extensive nerve connections to both. The main function of the thalamus is to relay motor and sensory signals to the cerebral cortex for interpretation. What is the Thalamus?
Creativity is the result of the biology of the brain, with some brains being more creative and some less so. Creativity is not destroyed or created by the home environment, schools, or teachers.
To understand creativity, one needs to examine a large number of perspectives that relate to the creative brain. The best single source of information from these perspectives is The Cambridge Handbook of the Neuroscience of Creativity (2018) Rex E. Jung (Editor), Oshin Vartanian (Editor). The book is long, but worth reading, if you are really interested in understanding creativity.
Among the factors that are important to the creative mind are
- lowered inhibition (the function that blocks unrelated stimuli from being processed)
- increased connectivity between brain regions that are usually not connected
- ability to achieve divergent thought
- ability to access the default mode network (DFN) for creative idea generation
- leaky attention (the opposite of maintaining focus)
- ability to create remote associations
A basic neurological aspect of creativity is the inhibitory function, which acts to keep the brain focused on a given task by not responding to unrelated items that are not related to the cognitive activity. When this function is low, the number of extraneous stimuli that are rejected is low, so the brain gets a broader range of stimulants—helpful to creativity. Although rare, there are verified cases of people suddenly developing an interest in creative pursuits, following a brain injury. It happens only when the area of the brain that is damaged is the part governing inhibition. Similarly, exposure to alcohol or other drugs can reduce the inhibitory function and promote creative thought.
The connectivity of white matter tracts also can bring in distant associations in the individuals who have connections to usually not-connected parts of the brain. The point of all of these examples is to show that properties of the brain are the primary reasons some people are creative and some are not. You cannot teach someone to be the brilliant painter Picasso, but you might find one out of a few billion people who have what it takes.
Besides the book already mentioned, there are lots of other good papers on the subject. I think these two are particularly good:
Creativity meets neuroscience: Experimental tasks for the neuron-scientific study of creative thinking/ Andreas Fink, Mathias Benedek, Roland H. Grabner, Beate Staudt, Aljoscha C. Neubauer/ Methods 42 (2007) 68–76
Human Brain Mapping 31:398–409 (2010) Neuroanatomy of Creativity; Rex E. Jung, 1,2 * Judith M. Segall, 1 H. Jeremy Bockholt, 1 Ranee A. Flores, Shirley M. Smith, Robert S. Chavez, and Richard J. Haier
Creativity is outside of Logic and, on the Scale of Consciousness created by David R. Hawkins, up into the range of ‘Love and above’! The range of Logic ends before Love.
Other teachers remind us that we have to all but shut down our noisy minds to enter the field of Consciousness which is sourced in our sixth, non-dimensional, senses and beyond what our five physical senses can access.
Those who have not learned the limits of our physical senses, and those who worship the Logical processes will rail at this; but they will also fail to make Great advances, being restricted to only the tiny, incremental steps which Science-only processes can keep us confined to doing.
We are complex beings in a very complex universe; but are normally taught at the kindergarten level so that we remain largely ignorant and controllable by others.
Both meditation and contemplative prayer can take us into the silence, by helping us quiet our noisy minds; so we can hear the subtle messages which we need to make leaps of imagination.
There are many good teachers who can help you meditate, starting with the basics but moving well up into very powerful procedures. As you grow, it is likely that you will need to change teachers; but that is OK; even necessary!
To become very creative you will have to go beyond the ‘silence’; but that can easily happen if you understand it is the final step; after you are already very good at ignoring mind noisiness!
All Great creativity is done in deep levels of consciousness!
My definition of creativity is precise. Consider the set of all possible thoughts which can be generated algorithmically from everything that is currently known, i.e. by cutting and pasting and shuffling and otherwise repeating or re-assembling, etc. every intelligibly parable sentence you can imagine.
A creative idea (art work, etc.) is anything that makes sense but is not included in that set.
A couple thoughts here: First, creativity need not be salubrious. Somebody invented the idea of extermination camps. Zyklon-B and using it to murder people was a creative idea somebody had. Sophocles wrote: “O clear intelligence, force beyond all measure! O fate of man, working both good and evil!” He was not just making pretty sounding words.
Second: You do not need to be a Shakespeare or an Einstein to have a creative idea, and not just a trivial one. I had an uncle who, as an enlisted man in World War II, invented the “star and bars” insignia still found to this day (2020) on all United States military aircraft. His invention saved lived by enabling U.S. fighter pilots to distinguish friend from foe and thus avoid shooting down their comrades by friendly fire in aerial combat. He had only a high school education. A whole bunch of college education officers never even had a clue to solving the problem. The downside was that, because he was only an enlisted man, he got no publicity for what he did and, apart from me, nobody would ever know about it.