Creativity resides on the edge of chaos


Life gets brighter when you start creating and expressing; when you get out of the rat race and start getting high on your own supply. We usually associate creativity with the younger generation, and we think of ourselves as being much more adventurous and creative in our younger years. 

Do you remember a time in your life when you thought you could be anyone, and you were full of enthusiasm to explore and discover different interests? 

Unfortunately, as much as we would like to retain that zest and fire of our younger years, we eventually lose sight of our creative selves. According to psychologists at UC Berkeley, creativity declines as we age, as adults tend to engage less in creative activities.

🌟 Path of Least Resistance 🌟

Why aren't more people creating things? In his book, The Art of War, Steven Pressfield argues that the reason is simple: people are losing the battle against resistance. Pressfield describes this as an invisible force that tries to prevent creative expression by leaving things as they are. Resistance is the one villain that everyone is trying to defeat.

To take up the fight against inner resistance (commonly referred to as laziness), Pressfield recommends setting aside a block of time each day for creative thinking and writing down tasks with intention and clarity. But first, before we can find the path of least resistance and harvest our creative juices, we must understand what creativity is and how to harness its power and unlock our potential.

Creativity requires effort and energy. Contrary to popular belief that the right hemisphere of the brain is the creative side, recent brain imaging studies show that creativity can come from both the right and left hemispheres, depending on the circumstances.

When we deal with or respond to unfamiliar things that require strategic thinking and improvisation, brain activity increases in the right hemisphere. On the other hand, when we are doing creative things out of routine, such as playing an instrument we've been learning since childhood, the left hemisphere takes over.

According to Abraham Maslow, creativity is a facet of self-actualization, which is at the top of the hierarchy of needs. Even though creativity is present in everybody, not everyone is (unconsciously) willing to expend the energy, time, and effort necessary to create and solve problems. To actively encourage spontaneous creativity and expression, basic needs always come first.

Even though the two are frequently intertwined, creativity is a luxury when compared to survival. When the needs for safety and security are met, ideas become things, empathy grows, and a greater sense of well-being and self-esteem develops.

Breaking Free

Creation is the driving force behind evolution and the essence of life. And s haring one's inner world of experiences and feelings with others through a specific medium is what creative expression is all about.

Traditional mediums include writing, drawing, singing, painting, and playing an instrument, but there are hundreds of other ways to express one's creativity, with applications in business, science, and even everyday life.

A good example of a great creative thinker who overcame adversity and successfully put his innovative ideas into action would be Steve Jobs. He credited daily practice, discipline, and a willingness to fail for a large part of his success.

Discipline is a powerful tool for combating the stories and illusions that stifle creative inspiration and expression. A goal is a strong desire to achieve something. And being willing to fail means being willing to take risks and try things that have never been done before.

But it's never what it appears to be. Resistance takes many forms, and we must be aware that the media is one of them today. The media sets the norm, tells the masses what is acceptable, and shapes our view of the world, often inhibiting creative thinking.

Another form of resistance that is very common is perfectionism. In psychology, this condition is often the result of a lack of encouragement and affirmation during the developmental years, often combined with criticism, reprimand, or punishment.

We can overcome this resistance by refusing to let imperfect situations lower our self-esteem and make us less creative.

Beyond Sensationalism

Although the mainstream media attempts to entice viewers with sensationalism and archetypal narratives rooted in order and chaos, the creative process emphasizes the importance of both, and the solution lies in the "and," not the "or."

This paradoxical phenomenon occurs within the brain because creative thinking occurs when two important parts of the brain collaborate. The default network is one part, and the executive control network is the other. These parts are antagonistic to one another, but they work well together during creative thinking and artistic performance.

"You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet," as the old adage goes. Creativity does not emerge in a perfectly ordered and logical manner. In fact, most of the time, it is the result of a combination of thoughts and ideas. For example, when a writer is working on a novel, it may take several drafts and concepts before he comes up with a best-seller.

Similarly, painters must deal with a messy study before completing their masterpiece. Chaos and order must coexist, and when accepting their coexistence, can one fully and freely master the creative process.

In cinema, an example of this many are familiar with would be that of the characters Batman (order) and (Joker). The Joker's famous line to Batman, "You complete me," sums up this relationship between two primordial forces.

Getting into the Flow

The Flow Genome Project, a non-profit organization that conducts groundbreaking research to improve human performance, has discovered an altered state that boosts creativity by up to 200 percent — the flow state. Their research team is constantly looking for new ways to enter the flow state and produce their best work.

In 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term "flow," which he defines as "the subjective state in which a person is working at their full capacity, and their attention is so focused on a task that factors such as fatigue and boredom do not interfere; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people participate just to enjoy it."

Essentially, "flow" is a state of mind that occurs when a person's skills and challenges match the task at hand; it's a byproduct of achieving goals with clear feedback that determines whether the action was successful or not. Ultimately, this leads to an increase in self-esteem and self-mastery.

On a physical level, the brain floods the brain with norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin, which are neurochemicals that make us feel good and think creatively.

For example, norepinephrine and dopamine increase your ability to focus on details and process more information. When you focus on a task, the sounds in your head become quieter, and you can associate them in new ways. Anandamide, a chemical in your brain, helps you think more laterally and recognize patterns that are linked to success or failure.

🚀 Activation 🚀

According to Steven Kotler, a co-founder of The Flow Genome Project, effective means of activating the flow state include extreme sports, psychedelics, and meditation.

In his book Stealing Fire, Kotler describes two main factors that trigger creativity: pattern recognition and risk-taking. Once a pattern has been identified, all that remains is for the individual to act, whether or not the action is successful, and the creative process is defined by this repetitive activity.

Many people from all walks of life have accomplished the impossible (the big "I" impossible) by entering the flow state and using their inner creativity to solve problems.

Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process. Enthusiasm - from the Greek, filled with God - is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself.

Julia Cameron

💡 Thinking 💡

In general, people think creatively in three ways, and there are tests to help understand the part of the mind that is active and engaged.

1. Convergent thinking

Putting together several, sometimes disparate pieces of information and discovering a solution or thing that connects them. In the RAT test, three words are given and you are asked to think of one word that is related to all three, e.g., cottage, blue, and cake. What word unites them all? How about some cheese?

2. Creative thinking

Several ideas or solutions are developed from a single starting point. The Torrance test, which includes both picture-based and word-based tasks, gives the subject a time limit and asks them to come up with as many answers as they can.

3. Perception

When an idea or solution appears out of nowhere, it is referred to as a "aha!" moment. This feeling, known as insight or epiphany, has inspired many new and groundbreaking ideas throughout history.

The Benefits

Stress Reduction

According to research, the flow state causes the release of five essential neurochemicals: norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, anandamide, and endorphins. This cocktail naturally reduces stress while increasing pleasure.

Energy

Creative expression can increase focus and purpose by focusing on something you like rather than dwelling on problems.

Emotional Well-Being

According to research, the flow state causes the release of five essential neurochemicals: norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, anandamide, and endorphins. This cocktail naturally reduces stress while increasing pleasure.

Empathy & Tolerance

Art teaches people that everyone is unique and different, which fosters compassion and patience while also helping to alleviate inherent narcissism, the belief that everyone is an extension of ourselves.

Brain Plasticity

As new experiences arise, the brain constantly reshapes itself to form new connections. Creativity stimulates new synaptic connections, resulting in a more connected mind.

Live your life as an Exclamation rather than an Explanation

Isaac Newton

Conclusion

Pattern recognition and risk-taking are two essential components of the creative process. To learn new skills and come up with new ideas, it takes a lot of learning, growing, and taking advantage of opportunities.

So, why aren't there more people making things? Part of it stems from a reluctance to take new risks. Anything is possible, and if people can borrow from the bravery and boldness of their younger selves, they will be able to tap into their untapped creative potential.

Nobody has a valid reason to stop learning and growing. There is always the opportunity to learn new skills, which can lead to new opportunities and a better self!

If you only remember one thing from this post, there is a growing online community with plenty of support to keep learning, growing, and sharing your gifts with the world. When you start creating and expressing yourself, your life quickly brightens. Get out of the rat race and start consuming your own supply.

References

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Cheron, G. . (2016). How to Measure the Psychological "Flow"? A Neuroscience Perspective. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1823.
Dietrich, A., & Haider, H.. (2017). A Neurocognitive Framework for Human Creative Thought.. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 2078.
Doyle, C. L. . (2017). Creative Flow as a Unique Cognitive Process . Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1348.
Gold, J., & Ciorciari, J. . (2020). A Review on the Role of the Neuroscience of Flow States in the Modern World. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 10(9), 137.
Gopnik, A., O’Grady, S., Lucas, C. G., Griffiths, T. L., Wente, A., Bridgers, S., Dahl, R. E. . (2017). Changes in cognitive flexibility and hypothesis search across human life history from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. PNAS July 25, 2017 114 (30) 7892-7899.
Habe, K., Biasutti, M., & Kajtna, T. . (2019). Flow and Satisfaction With Life in Elite Musicians and Top Athletes. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 698.
Japardi, K., Bookheimer, S., Knudsen, K., Ghahremani, D. G., & Bilder, R. M.. (2018). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of divergent and convergent thinking in Big-C creativity. Neuropsychologia, 118(Pt A), 59–67.
Jia, X., Li, W., & Cao, L. . (2019). The Role of Metacognitive Components in Creative Thinking. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2404.
Kuypers, K. P., Riba, J., de la Fuente Revenga, M., Barker, S., Theunissen, E. L., & Ramaekers, J. G. . (2016). Ayahuasca enhances creative divergent thinking while decreasing conventional convergent thinking . Psychopharmacology, 233(18), 3395–3403.
Ritter, S. M., Abbing, J., & van Schie, H. T.. (2018). Eye-Closure Enhances Creative Performance on Divergent and Convergent Creativity Tasks. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1315. .
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Šimleša, M., Guegan, J., Blanchard, E., Tarpin-Bernard, F., & Buisine, S. . (2018). The Flow Engine Framework: A Cognitive Model of Optimal Human Experience. Europe's journal of psychology, 14(1), 232–253.
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What hit me the most is the quote you shared by Isaac Newton, "Live your life as an Exclamation rather than an Explanation." True, if you think about it. I've been living my life trying to fit into the standards of other people, constantly explaining myself, falling into the status quo. Its about time to break the barrier and surround yourself with the right people. Be in an environment and consume media that pushes you to be better, not the other way around.

Despite their efforts to sell us on the idea that either chaos or order is good, mainstream media would have us believe their answer should be the opposite. In reality, both are necessary and should work together as opposed to one over the other. The reality is, whatever happens, will happen regardless of our intentions. The first thing we need to do is understand what they are selling us; the systems and structures that mainstream media desperately want you to believe in.

I adore the creativity you have exhibited here in explaining the creative process!

You know I just had a conversation that was similar to some of the content in this post the other day. I was speaking with a friend and discussing how I feel like there aren't many things being "invented" nowadays. Creative thinking isn't something that's always been my forte however, I've always had the urge and drive to learn and experience new things. I think understanding now the different types of creative thinking that exist might help fuel me into some new ideas when it comes to my writing. Thanks for sharing this great insight, definitely going to use this as my starting point!

Just reading this article feels like I got a little caffeine boost. So inspiring and encouraging. This summer I just feel like I need to do new things and what’s holding me back? Especially now that I’m getting older I feel more secure and making my choices because what do I have to lose? No matter how silly or strange or out of character some of my goals might be I’m going to start them even if it’s just one tiny thing every day. Or maybe it’s just learning about one of my goals or practicing on it a little bit every night. I want to make sure that I’m learning something every day.

Steve Jobs said it best "You've gotta be willing to fail, you've got to be willing to crash and burn.

I have literally found everything I have needed by doing a little research online before starting my entrepreneurial endeavor. Diving in is the hardest part. Once you are in the water everything you need is right there.

Thanks for sharing this Michael

My creativity is processed by a few different aspects of all 3 creative thinking styles. This is a great article to explain the process a bit more

Convergent, divergent and insight! I really appreciate this insightful breakdown into our creative thinking!

Love this, and appreciate all the sources you've cited – very useful for continuing to learn about this topic.

"Chaos and order are both necessary ingredients in the creative process and the answer is in the and, not the or." This resonated with me. I actually write pretty consistently about finding, developing, and cultivating creative inspiration, and I think you're right on the mark here: organized chaos is a beautiful thing. Thank you for this food for thought.

I wish so many modern activities weren't focused on consuming over creating.

I have always been the creative one in my family; with writing, performing, literature, etc. I have been fortunate enough to bring that creativity to my line of work, and I find myself changing and growing all the time. Being creative keeps life from being boring; it allows for new ways of thinking and new ways of finding solutions. The problem with being the creative sort is, not everyone will appreciate it. I've often been accused of being TOO creative and being too much for people to handle. I've faced an incredible amount of rejection, not always polite. I've fallen flat on my face, but I learned from it. The only way to learn is to fail. People are afraid of rejection and failure, that's why they avoid taking chances and being creative. But for myself, it's the only way to be.

When I was working as a manager one of the things that I loved as a hobby was make Quilts. I love taking random pieces of fabric and putting them together to make a beautiful blanket. I was always afraid to do this on my own because I did not think I would be able to make a living or do anything with my talent. I never pursued it until the day I got laid off a couple years ago and that was the push I needed and now it’s my full-time job and I couldn’t be happier. I feel like that is the way of a lot of people. they are afraid of pursuing a passion or talents because of failure I myself experienced that. Now one of the things that I do is I try to encourage others that were in the same position as me. Maybe don’t quit your job right away but you should definitely start off small and don’t be afraid that you will never make it because just like in the article you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs . I hope that I’m showing my children as well to pursue their dreams and not be afraid of failing.

I have grown to be a big perfectionist which has of course hindered me in many aspects of life up until this point. I am actually really glad that I came across this article because I have been working on journaling and understanding my inner child. I also have been trying to find my creative "hotspot" so to say, and in reading this article I actually went and tried the RAT Test as well as the Torrence Test. Turns out that I am a divergent thinker which makes a lot of sense as I reflect onto my young life and how I developed as a person. It shows within my personality as well just how divergent I am, and now that I understand more of how I function I can definitely use it to my advantage. My perfectionism is what has actually bee stifling me all of these years because that rigidity was combating against my free-flowing way of thinking. Great article!

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