You’re More Creative Than You Think: The Myth of Left Brain

I’m about as left-brained as they come.

I’m a numbers guy.

I’m not creative.

I’ve encountered a good few folks with the ‘creative vacancy’ mindset and, without fail, I’m always perplexed by it. It’s no secret that there is a healthy portion of the population that firmly believe their reservoir of creative juices are as dry as Arizona. I wanted to address that line of thinking in this post, as well as why I staunchly disagree with it.

I’m willing to bet that everyone who has ever announced their general lack of creative spirit was a human being. If the individual in question is your goldfish, tough luck, this post isn’t for you. But if they were a living, breathing person, then odds are they’re just as creative as the next guy. Why? Because human beings are creative by nature.

We can trace it back to the very roots of the human species. Overtime, we’ve become very good at, well, creating. Our survival depended upon it. About 2.5 million years ago, our ancestors produced the first tools. They were multi-purpose- meant for hunting, digging, and all other important caveman activities. The moment that mankind began using tools was significant, as it marked our first, tentative steps toward creative thinking. We were able to think abstractly. Making a primitive hammer requires a lot of ingenuity and brainpower, if you think about it.

First, our caveman friend had to see an abstract problem.

Next, he had to envision a solution.

Third, he had to assemble something where there was once nothing.

Boom, Gronk is Michelangelo. The creation of the first tools could only be accomplished by mentally sifting through the components of the natural world around us and then assembling them- first abstractly within our heads, and then concretely. That takes creativity. The human tapestry is woven with threads of creative thinking.

When people say they aren’t creative, it is likely code for I can’t paint and write poetry or I’m not great at coming up with ideas.

I hate to be the burster of left-brained bubbles but- you can. I read a fantastic passage from Impro, a book by Keith Johnstone (yes, I’ve referenced it in multiple posts, the book is great and you should give it a read). Essentially, it went like this:

He has a friend who claims they aren’t creative. He disagrees. To prove their creative capacity, he asks them to shut their eyes and visualize the following story as he tells it (you can do this too):

“Imagine a man walking along the street. Suddenly, he hears a sound and turns to see something moving in a doorway.”

The story is short and sweet. Johnstone then goes onto ask his friend questions about the story. What were they wearing? What did the street look like? etc. Of course, the listener had answers to all of these questions. Where did those answers come from? They weren’t in the original text of the story. They were aspects of the mental picture that they assembled when trying to visualize what they were being told. That’s creativity.

If you’ve ever read a book and then been disappointed in the movie adaptation- you understand what’s going on. The movie can’t quite live up to the book because the film is the creative vision of the director. It fails to live up to the creative vision you assembled when reading the book initially. It always will because that creative vision spawned by your initial read is something unique to you.

Everyone is creative. We use creative thinking all-day, everyday. It’s only a matter of recognizing it.

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