Creativity: born out of downtime

March 19, 2013


The beauty of being in the car for sixteen hours is that you have to BE.IN.THE.CAR. It's you, your thoughts, some tunes, and the occasional podcast. You can't work on your finances or rehearse or go grocery shopping. Sometimes I have trouble remembering why I should make time to simply think and podcast. I get stuck in a cycle of doing and going. Interestingly enough, it was the podcast I listened to in the car that reminded me of the importance of downtime.

The podcast was an episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. It was an interview with neuropsychologist Rex Jung about the connection between creativity and the brain. And it was great!

Jung defines creativity as being both "novel and useful", and talked about how his research confirmed a suspicion of his: that creativity and intelligence are not the same thing (although there are obviously people who are both highly intelligent and highly creative). The creative brain is a "meandering brain". When we're more creative, our powerful frontal lobe actually down-regulates a bit. Creativity is dependent on our ability to let our brain make unexpected connections, and "meander". This is why Jung explains that so many creative people have their best ideas when they are going on a walk, taking a shower, or relaxing over a beer. We actually need this down time from active thinking to make these meandering connections.

This makes so much sense to me. It actually confirms my own suspicion: that my best creative ideas do not happen when I'm actively forcing them, analyzing them, or pushing them into creation. It made me think carefully about how I move from creating to analyzing, and about what kind of time I need to set aside for creativity-- not just time to actively work, but time to meander and rest.

Krista Tippett writesThis cutting-edge research is a resounding affirmation of something we know we need in the 21st century but struggle to create: downtime. It’s a call to make this possible for our children too. Again, I think we all know this. For science to demonstrate it as a necessary precondition for creativity is bracing and helpful.

Really good stuff. You can listen to Krista's Rex Jung interview over here

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