“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking” ― Albert Einstein
If you don’t think you are a “creative person” then raise your hand. In our cultural zeitgeist we have been taught that people are either right brained or left brained and that there is an innate dominance within us between creative and logical thinking. Despite research widely discrediting the mythology of right/left brain theory many of us continue to construct our personal subjective experiences based upon this premise only to introduce barriers and obstacles in our capacity to solve problems in our lives.
Where this idea originates from and how it has taken root in our cultural consciousness is a mystery and likely a mix. Early neurological research may have introduced the idea as we studied the various ways the different hemispheres of the brain interacted. The ancient concept of inspiration via the Greek genius or the muses has been in our cultural consciousness for ages. From a sociological perspective we have academized the artistic pursuits and separated them from the sciences as we formalized arts education within the pedagogic university systems in the middle of the 21st century.
Regardless of how this myth has been nurtured in our consciousness throughout the last 100 years, it is an idea which defies the historical context of innovation, creativity and progress that mark human endeavors. Before the invention of the photograph all early scientists could draw. One need only look at beautiful illustrations of James Audubon or Charles Darwin as examples of the artistic skills of many early scientists. One could just as easily turn to the astronomical charts drawn by Galileo or the myriad of architectural and engineering schematics drawn by hand by engineers prior to the conversion to digital mediums in the 21th century.
On the “left brain” side we have examples abound of the technical innovations in the artistic fields that cross over into the realm of science and technology. Artists from Seurat’s investigation into color theory to contemporary post modernists utilizing the first computer technology to generate images have been at the forefront of scientific innovations. Artists such as Michelangelo’s and Brunelleschi’s architectural schematics reveal evident “right brain” sensibilities while artists/engineers such as De Vinci invented machines with clearly articulated drawings.
Engineers and Scientists draw, imagine and invent. Artists develop theories of their work, explain the mechanics of space and of materials. Music is applied mathematics. The delineations between “right brain” and “left brain” are functionally non-existent. There have rarely been scientists and inventors who have not drawn upon their creativity to manifest new realities and solutions nor have there been successful and insightful artists who have not developed discipline, experimentation and processes within their work and craft. If you are not yet convinced then let me give you one more example of the inherent creativity of the human experience.
Our own perception of the world is in itself a creative endeavor. Take for example the eye alone. At any given moment the eye is taking in an image of the external world and from that our consciousness constructs an internal image which we “see.” Within the eye however there are blind spots that process no visual data for they lack the light receptors. Instead our brain steps in and constructs those portions of the image based on surrounding details and pre-existing expectations of our surroundings.
Further compounding this minor piece of creative construction is that the image we see in our mind’s eye is actually a composite image of two slightly different images and perspectives. Rapidly closing one eye and then the other reveals a similar but slightly different oscillation between images. While both eyes are open however we only see a single experience of the world in front of us. Like a painter or a photo editor our brain is processing the information, omitting some sensory details, combining others and fabricating blind spots in order to create a single perspective. Furthermore, the brain processes these external stimuli through the network of beliefs and experiences that make-up one's pre-existing worldview accentuating some elements and removing others as evidenced by the “Invisible Gorilla Experiments’ demonstrating selective attention.
This trend is evident among all of our senses in which our mind is processing a myriad of external stimuli, cropping, rearranging and creating a composite experience of our surroundings which is filtered through our belief models of what we should expect the world should be like. It is then finally delivered to our consciousness as a de-facto perception of the world around us. But we mustn’t take that for granted as the whole truth however. Our perception has been edited to a size and scale that our consciousness is capable of processing and is in fact a unique creation of our own minds from moment to moment.
We think of skills such as painting, drawing, dancing or playing an instrument and mistakenly equate them with creativity. Those however are but outlets for creativity and furthermore are skills that can be learned and developed. Creativity itself is simply observation and rearrangement which has a myriad of outlets. Whether it be a complex problem to solve, arranging a tight schedule or even looking at art or reading a book, nearly everything we do as human beings is creative even that which is as simple as seeing! Humanity is an inherently creative species. Remember then the next time you feel an urge to shirk away from a problem or an interest due to “not being a creative person” for every moment of your life is an inherently creative experience and those obstacles in front of your creativity may simply be self imposed.
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while." - Steve Jobs
By John James Audobon
By Charles Darwin
By Da Vinci
By Da Vinci
Cover: The Painter's Studio by Gustave Courbet