THE EXCELLENCE OF THE PHYSICAL – HAMMER, TONG, AND TOOLS

THE EXCELLENCE OF THE PHYSICAL

Some people think that I am primarily a mental man, or a “man of the mind” because I spend a lot of time studying, reading, attending and listening to lectures, mastering languages, writing stories and poetry and songs, conducting scientific experiments, etc. Some people think I am primarily a man of the spirit because I spend a lot of time talking about God and to God, examining scriptures, praying, meditating, etc. Some people think I am primarily a man of the psyche (of the soul) because I closely observe my own behavior and the behavior of others, because I watch and take note of other people and am very aware of how they actually behave versus just what they say or proclaim or pretend.

And all of those things are partially true. Not primarily, but partially true. I am in some respects a man of the mind, in other respects a spiritual man, in part a man of the soul and the human psyche.

But there is another part of me that is very, very earthy and physical.

Because I love, and am highly attracted to, and have always been highly attracted to, physical activity and things physical. (Except for eating, I could take or leave eating and if something better than eating existed I’d never eat again. Waste of time to me, and extremely inefficient and wasteful.)

Actually I often do my very best work when hiking, running, clearing land, having sex with the wife, exercising, exploring, climbing, etc. I am attracted to and have always enjoyed physical activity – strain, pain, pleasure, sex, exhaustion, etc. and to me all of those things are drivers and motivators. I have had to learn to correctly control them all and use them wisely and properly but they are all very dear and useful to me. They make me feel alive and invigorated. They are also both stimulants and inspirations to me. Doesn’t matter what I am doing, inventing, working on a business project, writing, composing, drawing, investigating, doing science, etc. physical activity is a stimulant to me.

For instance this morning I took Sam (my American Superior) for a run in the woods (rather than a hike, he’s getting a little fat and I want to work him back into shape with me) and while doing so I developed in my mind six good scenes for my Kithariune novel, a science fiction short story, a Real World invention based around the subject matter of the sci-fi short story (actually the real world invention came first), and had an interesting idea for a scientific experiment. (Physical activity is also an excellent mnemonic technique to me.)

Had I done nothing but sit on my ass this morning and tried to just “Think” (I have nothing against thinking by the way, I highly recommend it to everyone, it’s just I’m not much of a sedentary thinker, I’m an “active thinker” – physical activity stimulates my thinking) I doubt that a single one of those ideas would have occurred to me.

Yes, I am partially a man of the mind, and the spirit, and the soul, but also of the body. My body stimulates the other parts of me. In many ways my body is perhaps my single most important tool of creative expression, either directly or indirectly (as it feeds my mind, soul, and spirit).

I might not have the most excellent body but my body has done me the most excellent service. And just to give him his due, considering what I’ve put him through, he’s been tough as hell and I admire and respect him for that.

Is the body or physical activity a stimulant to you as well? Do you also rebel against the idea of “thinking” as being a sedentary pursuit, or the “thinking man” as a sedentary creature?

I certainly do and always have. Even as a child.

 

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CREATIVE WORK RELEASE

I almost never face Writer’s Block. I almost always have the opposite problem, too many ideas to pursue at once.

But for those who do have Writer’s Block problems then maybe this will help.

How to Work Through Difficulty: Lewis Carroll’s Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block

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“When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”

In addition to having authored my all-time favorite book, Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll was a man of extraordinary and frequently prescient wisdom on matters of everyday life — his nine commandments of letter-writing offer timely insight into how we can make modern digital communication more civil, and his four rules for digesting information are a saving grace for our age of information overload. In The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (public library; free download), this blend of timelessness and timelines so characteristic of Carroll’s thinking comes vibrantly ablaze, but nowhere more so than in an 1885 letter to one of his child-friends, a young lady named Edith Rix.

Carroll addresses the age-old question of how to overcome creative block. More than a century before psychologists identified the essential role of taking breaks in any intense creative endeavor, and long before our earliest formal theories about the stages of the creative process, Carroll offers spectacularly prescient counsel on how to work through creative difficulty and seemingly unsolvable problems — a testament to the fact that in the study of creativity, psychology often simply names and formalizes the intuitive insights artists have had for centuries, if not millennia.

Carroll offers young Edith three tips:

When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on. Put it aside till the next morning; and if then you can’t make it out, and have no one to explain it to you, put it aside entirely, and go back to that part of the subject which you do understand. When I was reading Mathematics for University honors, I would sometimes, after working a week or two at some new book, and mastering ten or twenty pages, get into a hopeless muddle, and find it just as bad the next morning. My rule was to begin the book again. And perhaps in another fortnight I had come to the old difficulty with impetus enough to get over it. Or perhaps not. I have several books that I have begun over and over again.

His second tip is particularly noteworthy for the way it compares and contrasts Carroll’s two domains of genius, writing and mathematics — for, lest we forget, behind the pen name Lewis Carroll always remained the brilliant mathematician and logician Charles Dodgson. He writes:

My second hint shall be — Never leave an unsolved difficulty behind. I mean, don’t go any further in that book till the difficulty is conquered. In this point, Mathematics differs entirely from most other subjects. Suppose you are reading an Italian book, and come to a hopelessly obscure sentence — don’t waste too much time on it, skip it, and go on; you will do very well without it. But if you skip a mathematical difficulty, it is sure to crop up again: you will find some other proof depending on it, and you will only get deeper and deeper into the mud.

In a way, this dichotomy also illuminates the difference between reading and writing. Writing is almost mathematical, in the sense that it requires a clarity of logic in order for the writer to carry the plot forward. A reader may be able to read over a muddled sentence and still follow the plot — but only if that sentence was unmuddled for the writer in carrying the plot forward. In that sense, while Carroll’s advice to Edith considers her experience as a reader, his advice to a writer regarding creative block would be more closely aligned with the mathematician’s experience — if a writer were to skip over a difficulty in the construction of a story, which is essentially a logical difficulty, it too “is sure to crop up again.”

Illustration by Tove Jansson for ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Click image for more.

Carroll’s third tip is at once remarkably simple and remarkably challenging to apply for anyone who has ever tussled with the mentally draining but spiritually sticky process of creative problem-solving:

My third hint is, only go on working so long as the brain is quite clear. The moment you feel the ideas getting confused leave off and rest, or your penalty will be that you will never learn Mathematics at all!

The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll is a wonderful read in its entirety, full of the beloved author’s thoughts on happiness, morality, religion, identity, and much more. Complement it with the best illustrations from 150 years of Alice in Wonderland, then fortify this particular bit with the psychology of the perfect writing routine and more ideas on overcoming creative block from Brian Eno, Carole King, and some of today’s most exciting creators.

FRUIT OF THE BERRY

To a large degree I agree with the man.

Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair Are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work

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“True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible… In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.”

“One can’t write directly about the soul,” Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary. Few writers have come to write about it — and to it — more directly than the novelist, poet, and environmental activist Wendell Berry, who describes himself as “a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts.” In his wonderful and wonderfully titled essay collection What Are People For? (public library), Berry addresses with great elegance our neophilic tendencies and why innovation for the sake of novelty sells short the true value of creative work.

Novelty-fetishism, Berry suggests, is an act of vanity that serves neither the creator nor those created for:

Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on originality, reduce the Creation to novelty — the faint surprises of minds incapable of wonder.

Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone. In loneliness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot fulfill.

Novelty is a new kind of loneliness.

Wendell Berry (Photograph: Guy Mendes)

Berry paints pride and despair as two sides of the same coin, both equally culpable in poisoning creative work and pushing us toward loneliness rather than toward the shared belonging that true art fosters:

There is the bad work of pride. There is also the bad work of despair — done poorly out of the failure of hope or vision.

Despair is the too-little of responsibility, as pride is the too-much.

The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.

For despair there is no forgiveness, and for pride none. Who in loneliness can forgive?

Good work finds the way between pride and despair.

It graces with health. It heals with grace.

It preserves the given so that it remains a gift.

By it, we lose loneliness:

we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us;

we enter the little circle of each other’s arms,

and the larger circle of lovers whose hands are joined in a dance,

and the larger circle of all creatures, passing in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.

Illustration by Emily Hughes from ‘Wild,’ one of the best children’s books of the year. Click image for more.

Echoing Thoreau’s ode to the woods and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’s assertion that cultivating a capacity for “fertile solitude” is essential for creative work, Berry extols the ennobling effects of solitude, the kind gained only by surrendering to nature’s gentle gift for quieting the mind:

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.

One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.

The return from such humanizing solitude, Berry cautions, can be disorienting:

From the order of nature we return to the order — and the disorder — of humanity.

From the larger circle we must go back to the smaller, the smaller within the larger and dependent on it.

One enters the larger circle by willingness to be a creature, the smaller by choosing to be a human.

And having returned from the woods, we remember with regret its restfulness. For all creatures there are in place, hence at rest.

In their most strenuous striving, sleeping and waking, dead and living, they are at rest.

In the circle of the human we are weary with striving, and are without rest.

Indeed, so deep is our pathology of human striving that even Thoreau, a century and a half ago, memorably despaired: “What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?” But the value of such recalibration of our connectedness in solitude, Berry suggests, is that it reminds us of the artist’s task, which is to connect us to one another. He returns to the subject of despair and pride, which serve to separate and thus betray the task of art:

The field must remember the forest, the town must remember the field, so that the wheel of life will turn, and the dying be met by the newborn.

[…]

Seeing the work that is to be done, who can help wanting to be the one to do it?

[…]

But it is pride that lies awake in the night with its desire and its grief.

To work at this work alone is to fail. There is no help for it. Loneliness is its failure.

It is despair that sees the work failing in one’s own failure.

This despair is the awkwardest pride of all.

But Berry’s most urgent point has to do with the immense value of “thoroughly conscious ignorance” and of keeping alive the unanswerable questions that make us human:

There is finally the pride of thinking oneself without teachers.

The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.

In ignorance is hope.

Rely on ignorance. It is ignorance the teachers will come to.

They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.

All of the essays in What Are People For? are imbued with precisely this kind of light-giving force. Complement it with Berry on what the poetic form teaches us about the secret of marriage, then revisit Sara Maitland on the art of solitude, one of the year’s best psychology and philosophy books.

THE FLOW OF IMAGINATION AND REALITY

And yet because the brain is a collaborative interconnected network both imagination and reality must both either originate from the same point or at some point pass each other to get where they are going.

Knowing this one should be able to both improve the quality of your observations of the Real World and beneficially intensify the quality of your imaginative and fictional productions.

In other words from the senses (perception) to the mind (for comprehension) goes Reality, and from the mind (projection) to the senses (through comparison) goes Imagination.

 

Imagination, reality flow in opposite directions in the brain

by Scott Gordon
Imagination, reality flow in opposite directions in the brain
Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in …more
As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality.Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.”A really important problem in research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?” says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate.”

Van Veen, along with Giulio Tononi, a UW-Madison psychiatry professor and neuroscientist, and collaborators from the University of Liege in Belgium, published results recently in the journal NeuroImage. Their work could lead to the development of new tools to help Tononi untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming, while Van Veen hopes to apply the study’s new methods to understand how the brain uses networks to encode short-term memory.

During imagination, the researchers found an increase in the flow of information from the of the brain to the occipital lobe—from a higher-order region that combines inputs from several of the senses out to a lower-order region.

In contrast, visual information taken in by the eyes tends to flow from the occipital lobe—which makes up much of the brain’s visual cortex—”up” to the parietal lobe.

“There seems to be a lot in our brains and animal brains that is directional, that neural signals move in a particular direction, then stop, and start somewhere else,” says. “I think this is really a new theme that had not been explored.”

The researchers approached the study as an opportunity to test the power of electroencephalography (EEG)—which uses sensors on the scalp to measure underlying electrical activity—to discriminate between different parts of the brain’s network.

Brains are rarely quiet, though, and EEG tends to record plenty of activity not necessarily related to a particular process researchers want to study.

To zero in on a set of target circuits, the researchers asked their subjects to watch short video clips before trying to replay the action from memory in their heads. Others were asked to imagine traveling on a magic bicycle—focusing on the details of shapes, colors and textures—before watching a short video of silent nature scenes.

Using an algorithm Van Veen developed to parse the detailed EEG data, the researchers were able to compile strong evidence of the directional flow of information.

“We were very interested in seeing if our signal-processing methods were sensitive enough to discriminate between these conditions,” says Van Veen, whose work is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. “These types of demonstrations are important for gaining confidence in new tools.”

THE NEAT, THE LOST, AND THE MESSY

With me it depends greatly upon what I am working on. If it is an invention or I am composing music or writing a song I prefer everything conducted with mathematical precision and to be highly organized and neat. Same if I am designing something, like a game or a set of design schematics. That’s pretty much how I work regarding business projects as well. Computer and hard files both carefully stored and organized. Desk neat.

If it is poetry,or I am writing a book or a novel, or it is artwork I’m very messy. Not disorganized, but messy. (Which are entirely different things.) I keep very careful and well organized computer files but I’ll have hundreds of notes and papers and notebook and research entries scattered about everywhere. I don’t know why that is, just the way I work. My office itself, by the way, is almost always neat and clean. My desk, drafting table, and in-office library shelves can be another matter altogether depending on what I am pursuing.

I’ve tried to be looser regarding scientific and technological and inventive work but that never works well. And I’ve tried to be better organized regarding poetry and art and writing and that doesn’t work well either. I think I either have different sub-conscious expectations in one field or another or that my mind just shifts into different work modes depending on what I’m doing.

The Psychology Behind Messy Rooms: Why The Most Creative People Flourish In Clutter

The Psychology Behind Messy Rooms: Why The Most Creative People Flourish In Clutter
Money

All our lives, we’ve been told to “be organized.” Organization has always been pegged as a direct key to success.

Whether at home, school or in your bunk at camp, organization is something that has been instilled in everyone pretty much from birth. On the other hand, being messy has been equally condemned and made to be a quick path to failure. And, honestly, no rebuttal could say otherwise.

I mean, what good can come from being disorganized, right? Perhaps more than you might think. More recent studies, conducted by the University of Minnesota last year, provide us with a new side of the debate. The pro-messy one.

There has always been this sort of “urban legend” that has floated around modern society deeming people with messy desks as having a high affinity for creative reasoning.

Frankly, I initially thought that people with “messy desks” had to be creative, out of necessity, to survive outside the boundaries of organization.

Last week’s take home test, still undone, in one corner. A page from last month’s Playboy ripped out and crumpled next to the bottle of cocoa butter in the other. Empty Arizona cans distributed across the surface, like a battlefield.

Your desk is a mess. Then again, it’s your mess, and thus, it feels very in-control. When you habitually fail to put things in their designated place, you’re bound to get creative figuring out ways to make everything, I don’t know, fit. And fit comfortably.

While it might look completely random to strangers, a lot of times, a person’s mess is very methodical – with respect to himself.

Psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, from the University of Minnesota, who set out to debunk this urban legend, didn’t confine her study to solely the desk. No, Vohs, clearly a creative mind, chose to think outside the desk. She just sounds messy. The creative kind of messy.

Using a paradigm consisting of one messy room and one tidy room, and a series of trials, Vohs concluded that messy rooms provoke more creative thinking – and provided scientific evidence!

The next question is, what exactly constitutes “creative thinking,” and how will your pig sty of a room help?

Creative thinking, in its purest form, is thinking outside the lines of “conventional” reasoning. When considering this, it should be no huge shock that messy rooms containing possessions misplaced from their “conventional” locations would promote creativity.

I suppose if you prefer to “lay,” and I use that term very loosely, your clean clothes on the floor of your bedroom, when the empty dresser is only a few feet away – you’re certainly thinking outside the lines of conventional reasoning. And that same concept could be applied to more abstract conception.

Consider this from Albert Einstein, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

THE WELL OF WISDOM…

Most of this advice is quite good.

Advice on Writing from Modernity’s Greatest Writers

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What sleep and plagiarism have to do with the poetry of experience and the experience of poetry.

I recently stumbled upon a delightful little book called Advice to Writers, “a compendium of quotes, anecdotes, and writerly wisdom from a dazzling array of literary lights,” originally published in 1999. From how to find a good agent to what makes characters compelling, it spans the entire spectrum of the aspirational and the utilitarian, covering grammar, genres, material, money, plot, plagiarism, and, of course, encouragement. Here are some words of wisdom from some of my favorite writers featured:

Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created — nothing.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Don’t ever write a novel unless it hurts like a hot turd coming out.” ~ Charles Bukowski

Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser

A short story must have single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” ~ T. S. Eliot

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” ~ Stephen King

Good fiction is made of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by.” ~ Ralph Ellison

The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” ~ Tom Wolfe

You cannot write well without data.” ~ George Higgins

Listen, then make up your own mind.” ~ Gay Talese

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.” ~ Mark Twain

And then, of course, there’s the importance of knowing what advice to ignore:

WORK WITHOUT CEASE

For the most part, very sound advice…

Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing and Daily Creative Routine

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“When you can’t create you can work.”

After David Ogilvy’s wildly popular 10 tips on writing and a selection of advice from modernity’s greatest writers, here comes some from iconic writer and painter Henry Miller.

In 1932-1933, while working on what would become his first published novel, Tropic of Cancer, Miller devised and adhered to a stringent daily routine to propel his writing. Among it was this list of eleven commandments, found in Henry Miller on Writing — a fine addition to these 9 essential books on reading and writing, part of this year’s resolution to read more and write better.

COMMANDMENTS

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to ‘Black Spring.’
  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  5. When you can’t create you can work.
  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

ON YOUR MUSE AND YOUR GREAT WORKS

I recently saw a comment on the Facebook page of a friend of mine.

Discussing Muses. And it made me think about something I’ve been thinking about regarding Muses and Work for a long time.

So here is my thought on Muses and your Great Works (The really important Works of your life, in which I include Family and Friends and whatever you build and create or do in this world that is good and noble and worthwhile and may even last for awhile, or have some lasting impact.)

I also think a lot of modern people have a very inaccurate and romantic and even misguided idea of both what a Muse is and what the function of a Muse is in relation to your Great Works in life.

I look at it this way. Make every effort to be available to your Muse (who in my case is God) – you know, like your Muse is your friend. Or at the very least your trusted associate or valuable client.

Also call your Muse up. Take your Muse to dinner. Get feedback, exchange ideas. Take a trip together. Spend time with your Muse. Court your Muse. Hunt down your Muse when your Muse is busy elsewhere. Make an appointment.

Lotta modern people think Muses do magic. And that you can only summon them with enchanted circles and complex incantations. Or that they conjure themselves outta thin air as they wish like Fairy folk to ensorcel you at their own inscrutable will.

I happen to think that’s mostly all bullcrap and highly counterproductive to any form of Creativity or Work. It’s just not that complicated or uncertain a deal. I think the Ancients had it right about the Muse, not modern people. You dedicate yourself to your Muse, as you would a friend and your Muse will become your Friend.

But it is not your Muse’s job to write or Work for you. That’s your job. Far too many people confuse inspiration with effort.

Inspiration is indeed part of your Muse’s job. The actual Work part is all yours.

This is one of my prayers to my Muse by the way. Everyday before Work I pray it. But I never confuse my Prayer with my Work. Different things altogether. A Strategy is not a War, it’s just the way you go about fighting a war. And a Muse is a Partner, not a slave, or a fantastical unicorn made of fairy dust and unfulfilled dreams. If you have an unfulfilled dream then that’s probably (not always maybe, true enough, but probably) your fault, not the fault of your Muse.

 

The Great Works

Lord I submit to you now my Great Works. Be my eternal Muse oh Son of God, Christ Jesus. Be my Muse of the Soul, my Artistic, Business, Financial, Inventive, Invested, Musical, Scientific, and Poetic Muse. Guide and lead me where you will. Bring success to all I do under your influence, and possess and influence all I do or build or create. Use what I do to fulfill your Will. You know my heart, and my skills. Use me and all I do to achieve your Ends. Profit and prosper all I do, all of my business, all my work, all of my art, my every experiment, all I write, compose, invent, devise, draw, imagine, create, build, repair, rebuild, reform, decorate, design, test, prove, and demonstrate to good and greatness and to your wise employments. Guide my hand, heart, mind, and soul in everything I do and create and spread the fame and success of it throughout the world and throughout all time for the benefit of your Realm upon the Earth so that my work becomes an eternal part of Your Work. I surrender my work to you so that my accomplishments prosper and increase to your fame and glory forever.
Amen.

I’VE NEVER BELIEVED…

I’ve never believed in that left brain/right brain non-sense. As a matter of fact I’ve never believed in or seen any real evidence in support of most of that pop psychology crap (and I used to work in the field of psychology) so popular among the general public, but I have often seen such things do a great deal of harm.

Although this is only a blog I’m very familiar with most of the work and neuroscience overturning right brain/left brain pop psychology. (This post points to some of it.) So I’m very glad to see this particular pop psychology idiocy being thoroughly disproven.


The Real Neuroscience of Creativity

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

So yea, you know how the left brain is really realistic, analytical, practical, organized, and logical, and the right brain is so darn creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic?

No.

Just no.

Stop it.

Please.

Thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists such as Anna AbrahamMark Beeman, Adam Bristol, Kalina Christoff, Andreas Fink, Jeremy Gray, Adam GreenRex JungJohn KouniosHikaru TakeuchiOshin VartanianDarya Zabelina and others are on the forefront of investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional and overly simplistic notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.

The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction does not offer us the full picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain.* Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task…

 

CREATIVE ACTIONS – HOW TO MAXIMIZE THEM

Although I am no fan of the Huffington Post I agree with every general point made in this article. Personally I would add a couple of more but I won’t quibble. I’d read the whole article.

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

Posted: 03/04/2014 8:48 am EST Updated: 03/26/2014 8:59 am EDT

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CREATIVITY

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”

While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently…

 

WHERE AND HOW DO I BEST CREATE?

Where and How Do I Best Create?

I decided tonight to participate in a writing prompt that appeared on this site, the Daily Post:
This was the specific prompt I am responding to:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/writing-space/

“Where do you produce your best writing — at your desk, on your phone, at a noisy café? Tell us how the environment affects your creativity.”

I altered the name of the prompt a little bit from, “Where do you produce your best writing?” to “Where and How Do I Best Create?”

Although I am a writer, I am also an inventor, and a game designer, and a businessman, and I’m aware of how I create best in all of those disciplines.

Some real amount of creativity is required for all of the functions I listed and with me I have particular environments or actions that are most conducive to creativity in each particular sphere of activity, but the environments or triggers for each of those activities tend to vary. For sentence the triggers for my creativity when I am inventing tend to be different from those when I am writing. Individual triggers may overlap but different fields usually produce different methods for me.

First of all a bit of background regarding creativity as I see it – and to me where you create is directly linked to both what and how and how well you create. I have studied creativity (the subject in general) and my own creative habits and tendencies for decades and have gotten pretty good at knowing what best stimulates creativity in me.

Secondly I live in the country and pretty far away from any city, or even town. I purposely choose to live out in the country and would never choose to work in a city at any creative function. I lived in a city for a brief period of time when my wife and I first married and found that particular environment anti-creative.

I would and do visit cities to work cases (criminal cases that I still assist on occasionally), to meet clients or investors, to see a film, attend a concert, visit a library, go to an airport, or just to see the sights. I would however never work in a city. So for me almost all creative undertakings are done in the country and most of those near my home where there is plenty of land to wander and wildlife to study, track, and watch. But noise, pollution, congestion, distraction, all of that is the very opposite of a creative environment to me.

Third, I tend to create first in my mind, working out most of the aspects and details of what I am creating in my head, then go over and over the subject again, committing it to memory, then later I write it out in sketch books or on notepads or notecards, and finally I transfer it to my desktop computer. I have tried other methods, and other technological aids, but most don’t seem to work for me very well, if at all. So that’s my normal pattern. Construct first in my mind, work out most of the details, commit to memory, then write out my notes, and finally commit it to my computer where I can edit and revise.

As for how I commit whatever I am working on to memory see this post: https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-memory-palace-matteo-ricci-and-the-city-of-agapolis/

So, all of that being said by way of introduction here are the places I best create and the circumstances that tend to spur on creativity in my case.

1. Business or Investment – if I am working on a business or investment project either for myself or for a client I tend to do best by simply driving around town in my car looking at businesses or by stopping at a public place (like a mall) and people-watching and observing commerce. This is the one exception to my No-City Creativity Rule. In this case I like to make close observations on how people are interacting and how and in what directions commerce and human activity tends to flow. I try to look at it from an objective point of view, as if I were a disinterested observer. Then I commit to memory what I saw or occasionally I will make notes, make a comment into my digital recorder, or I will ask my wife and children to make notes on something I or we have observed. Every Friday that it is possible I/we have what I call an Idea Sabbath. The wife, the kids, and I will take that day off for nothing but Idea Generation. These are the occasions I use for business and capital creativity. Sometimes I will also use these outings to make close observations of people (people watch) so that I can later use what I have observed for fictional character development.

2. Game Design – if I am working at game design or development I do best by imaging the game in my mind and then trying to play out various scenarios in my imagination to the logical conclusions. This is where the City of Agapolis comes in very handy. I often design best by lying in bed in the dark and the quiet, by meditating, by lying in a hot bath, or in the sun. Sometimes I do quite well at design by listening to music, mostly Art Music. For the most part though I design best in quiet and peaceful environments. I have done some really good design work at night in the yard while stargazing through my telescope or by simply sitting in the dark in my yard at night listening to the night wildlife and birds.

3. Invention – I usually do my very best inventing while walking in the woods or riding my bicycle in the country. Either activity allows me to clear my mind completely and to make close order observations of everything around me. Most of my inventions are spurred on by making observations of Nature anyway, or by having conversations with God while I walk or bike or hike, and on those occasions God will often point out to me something I had previously failed to notice. This almost invariably leads to a good invention idea.

4. Poetry – I often write my very best poetry after reading, often after reading history. I also do extremely well at writing poetry after I am physically exhausted. So, often I will run or train or work out heavily, then go take a hot bath (followed by a cold bath) and while I lay in the tub I will commit to memory whatever poem I am writing in my head (poetry is extremely easy to memorize because, well, it’s poetic), then after I get out I’ll write it down. Sex with the wife also often leads to good poetry, and sometimes good songs. Point is my best poetic compositions are usually related to states of extreme physical exhaustion and or states of extreme physical relaxation.

5. Songwriting – songwriting for me is usually spurred on by listening to music, by becoming distracted by something, by play, or by athletic activities, or even by driving in the countryside. Though sometimes it can occur in my dreams or come out of almost nowhere. (Or it seems that way to me anyway, see: https://wyrdwend.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/everyone/) It also seems to often occur just before and just after sleep. Songwriting often hits me a couple of days or weeks after carefully listening to a song by someone else and closely examining and then thinking about the lyrical structure of the song I listened to. Like with poetry I can go days, sometimes weeks, without writing a single song and then I will write six or seven or even more in just a few days.

6. Writing Fiction – writing fiction for me is almost always connected with Work and the Land. I write my very best novel material and short stories and things like that while working the land. If I am chopping wood with my axe, if I am cutting grass, or hauling dirt, or clearing brush, or using my slingblade, or working outdoors then I will write well. Usually the entire time I am working outside a story or novel is running through my head and I can either write out entire scenes or develop whole plotlines as I work. Physical work is fully conducive to my best fictional work and I can write far more easily while my body is at work than I can by sitting still at my desk (which I tend to hate anyway). So as I work I also write out the piece (or to be more accurate I usually imagine the characters and scenes) in my head, commit it to memory, then when I finish I will come in and write it all down. If the story becomes so involved I fear I can’t remember it all correctly or I start producing particularly good character dialogue I’m afraid I’ll forget then I come inside immediately and write that down. But it all begins with physical labor and working outdoors.

Those are the environments and situations and techniques regarding how I tend to create, and create best. I could mention a couple of other efforts, such as when I’m working on a scientific project or paper (and my best scientific work tends to be a sort of combination of how I best Invent and Write – Nos. 3 and 6), or how I might still work a case, which tends to be a combination of Business creativity (such as revisiting the crime scene) coupled with Design creativity but overall the techniques and environments I listed above pretty much sum up my methods of creativity depending on what form of creativity I’m pursuing.

Overall I almost never associate creativity of any kind, or even a specific creative pursuit like writing, with being sedentary, or with something like sitting in a café. To me creativity is an active function, whether that activity is physical, mental, or psychological.
Mostly I associate activity and motion and movement and work (actually making things physically happen) with creativity. But to me being sedentary and inactive seems the very antithesis of real creativity. So just sitting my butt in a chair is one technique I find hard to stomach. I guess it’s the way I’m built but I detest the standard conception of the sit-around creator, or the sit all day drinking coffee writer.

I’m sure that there are writers who do very well that way or in that type of environment, but me, I prefer an axe in my hand or some land to wander while I write.