Our brains are so exceedingly complex, and perhaps that’s why, as we gain increasing amounts of lighting-fast information delivered digitally, it becomes somewhat more tricky to stay creative?! I’ve often wondered why some people could let themselves fly with artistic ideas, hobbies and large-scale endeavors while others get stuck. Yes, there’s the ideas that we hold onto that art is useless or that we are untalented, there are judgments that have stuck like glue from our parents or our teachers or even friends that we suck at a certain craft we love and then there is the brain. How does the brain help or hinder our ability to make things and revel in art?
Recent scientific studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that filters information and decides what is useful. When this part of the brain is artifically suppressed in adults, they can reason more creatively without the interference of what we call “logic.” Shutting down that filter allows creative expression to run free. (you can see the study HERE in Science Daily).
To extend that a bit further, I realize that when I start writing articles looking to please all of you, they start to suck and I delete them and feel “blocked.” That same part of the brain creates that block because we are busy judging and evaluating rather that actually creating art. Semir Zeki writed in Psychology Today about this phenemonon:
The [frontal cortex] may be involved in assessing whether such behaviors conform to social demands, exerting inhibitory control over inappropriate or maladaptive performance
And there you have it!
Any artistic achievement that is tailored to conform to social demands rather than to the real, uninhibited, feelings of its creator, is destined not to reach the heights of achievement, or even fail. It is only when an artist is disinhibited that he or she can reach the heights of artistic achievement.
Now, the coolest thing about these studies is that the prefrontal cortex is the slowest part of the brain to develop, meaning that as children, our “brain filter” has not yet fully established itself. There is such a thing as having the mind and creative spirit of a child! Children have less of a brain barrier to art-making!
Harnessing that same uninhibited creative spirit as an adult requires a lot of fun.
Interestingly, lots of drugs favored by lots of artists numb or atrophy the prefrontal cortex- cocaine, speed, alcohol, even porn addiction…and even internet addiction (!)- which makes sense since there needs to be a de-inhibitor to allow some artists with no other way to tap in on command to perform on a high and constant level. The problem beyond the health, mind and soul damage that these drugs do is that they atrophy the ability to make good decisions in general. This is obviously not the solution. We need a healthy prefrontal cortex to survive and thrive. We just need to work around it, if you will, to have a more artful life.
What to do- safely- to capture your childhood creative mind?! Part of getting out of your own way and creating more means that you are allowed to slow down, to breathe deeper, to eat better, to look at expansive views of landscapes or beaches and to experience sensory pleasure. Meditation- even walking medidation or a great yoga practice- helps us find ways to suppress our brain’s filter. Stocking your home with sensory goodies like aromatherapy (neroli, for example) can aid in the heighting of uninhibited creativity. Dropping your expectations also helps: in other words, dare to create things just for yourself, not to please others or create a certain commercial success. When all else fails, get lots of sleep and keep showing up to play. If you create and learn to ignore that logic filter, soon you will trust yourself more and be OK with the occasional background noise in your mind. Whatever you do, stay artistic!
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