THOUGH I DON’T WANT TO MOVE INTO THE REALM of book review, I feel inclined to rave about Jonah Lehrer’s most recent book, Imagine: how creativity works. Instead, I’ll discuss some of the major points from his work, and refer you to his website, jonahlerer.com, to learn more about the science of the brain.
So you say that you’re not very creative? You never wielded a mighty pencil – or crayon – when it came to drawing? You just don’t have the creative juices of your peers? Well, if this is how you think, then you’re mistaken. Another way of putting it, is that you have incredible potential to become a better thinker, capable of transforming random thoughts into tangible ideas. Chew on that.
In Lehrer’s Imagine, he provides some of the basic science behind the brain, showing you and me that we are creative beings. Your brain is divided into two hemispheres: the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. Though this is a gross simplification of the brain, your left hemisphere is responsible for the more analytical type of thought, such as solving a math equation or attempting to recall someone’s name that is on the “tip of your tongue.” On the other hand, your right hemisphere is responsible for linking random associations together: a broad range of information that has been stored throughout your life. Perhaps it is a conversation over lunch with a colleague, where you discussed the beer offerings at a local restaurant. Or the red glow that emanates from the lighting of an EXIT sign. All of a sudden, without any conscious thought, you are struck with the thought that an EXIT sign could be created that, instead of producing red light, contains Guinness Draft beer. Your local pub might love this idea, and eventually it purchases the EXIT sign that you built at home.
So this is a random association, and it literally just popped into my head as I write this article at Remedy Café. But it’s shows exactly what your right hemisphere does. Your right hemisphere is responsible for combining ideas in ways that you might not have previously imagined. And according to Lehrer, you can enhance your ability to combine these associations when you are relaxed. This is exactly why many of us have these crazy ideas under a warm shower. We’re relaxed, there’s nothing on our mind, and BOOM: a big idea is born.
So what does this all mean? Well, for one, it means that you should give yourself down-time. Too busy to read? Or to take walk the dog around the block? Think again. Sometimes, the best thing that you can do for yourself is take a quick break. Relax, crawl into bed with a book, and then take a nap. When you feel that you’ve been thinking too much, and that you’ve hit a mental dead-end, drop what you’re doing and breathe. The down time, if combined with good old-fashion hard (and analytical) work, can keep the creative juices flowing.
And this applies to you and me. To all of us. We’re creative beings.
Emerson Csorba is a third-year Sciences Politiques student, writer, avid runner and fashion magazine addict. You can find him on the River Valley trails or relaxing in Remedy. He is slowly making his way through Alastair I.M. Rae’s Quantum Physics.