Tag Archives: Guy Raz

Magical Creativity

When I was in college, my writing professor was convinced that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. As a writer, I just didn’t think that was true. But I didn’t think it was the mystical, spiritual muse that others make it out to be, either. (Elizabeth Gilbert, for example. She’s a little too “out there” for me.) It had to be somewhere in between.

Recently I was listening to The TED Radio Hour—an episode called “The Source of Creativity.” One of the people Guy Raz talked to was a scientist who believes creativity is a neurological process, a process that suppresses the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is the part that takes care of conscious self-monitoring, the part that’s afraid to be wrong, the part that inhibits your behavior and tries to prevent mistakes.

When your prefrontal cortex is active, you’re much less likely to be creative. I was thinking about what that means in my own life. And I was thinking about when I’m most creative. I realized it happens most when I’m doing muscle-memory-type tasks—walking in a familiar place, showering, driving—things my body just does on autopilot and my brain doesn’t really need to self-monitor. That’s when I come up with my best ideas.

“Artisitic creativity is magical, but it’s not magic.” —Charles Limb

Most writers will tell you that, to be a good writer, you need to just sit down and do it habitually. You need a schedule, a regular time to sit in the same place every day and just do it. Essentially, you’re creating another muscle memory process—another habit that frees up that prefrontal cortex from having to work so the rest of your brain can create great ideas. The results are magical, but the process—not so much.

I don’t know about you, but this significantly changes how I approach writing.