Thursday, March 02, 2006

Creativity-rich brain waves

Hmmm. I'm aways courting inspiration. Maybe it's time to shift gears into the Careless abandon mode. I'll try it this week and see if life gets sweeter.

The high-buzz mode by
Robert Genn

Back in 1978 Colin Martindale of The University of Maine put
some electrodes on some students' heads and made an art-shaking
discovery. Subjects were asked to create stories while the
electroencephalogram recorded their brain waves. Creativity, he
found, had two main stages--with vastly different types of
waves. He called the two stages "inspiration" and
"elaboration." While stories were being dreamed up, brains were
surprisingly quiet--mostly alpha waves indicating a low level
of cortical arousal. It was the same sort of activity that's
often found in sleep, dreaming or rest--which could explain why
sleep and relaxation can help people to be creative.

However, when these quiet-minded people were asked to "work on
their stories" their brains became suddenly busier--flashing
messages back and forth between lobes. Vastly more
connectivity, focus, corralling and organization appeared to be
going on. Martindale found that the people who had the most
creative storylines also showed the greatest contrast between
the two types of brain activities.

Many creative folks know about this. But it's been my
observation that about 20% of artists never get into the second
stage at all. Without this cortical shift they short-change
themselves. The question becomes how to set yourself up to
enter the high-buzz mode. Here are a few parallel,
creativity-rich modes that might surprise you:

Lackadaisical boredom mode
Sublimated anger mode
Dreamy love mode
Deadline mode
Relaxed time-off mode
Automatic joy mode
Careless abandon mode

It's in this "abandon" mode that you can actually feel the
brain change. Your tools quicken and they begin to run the
show. The mind seems to think ahead, or giddily moves somewhere
else. Some artists need a small change of location or posture
to go into this elaboration stage. It may also take a
trigger--music, memory, pressure, subconscious lapse. Or it may
simply happen when the first mode has gone on long enough to
play out and let the high-buzz mode begin. Ideally, as in a
hybrid vehicle, the power is constantly shifting back and forth
to whatever is appropriate and needed at the time.

(c) Copyright 2006 Robert Genn.
Reprint permission granted by

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