Everyone knows creative people think differently than the rest of us. Their ability to color outside the lines fuels an innovative approach to life. It also frustrates the rest of us who take everything more seriously, are perhaps more analytical and just can’t remember how to color at all.
Creatives are just wired differently, right?
The difference may lie in the fact that creative people think they are creative, experts say. That alone gives them permission to look at things from a different perspective.
“Creative brains aren’t wired differently, they just have more wires,” said Robert Wilson Jr., an innovation consultant, author and humorist from Atlanta, Georgia. “Creatives” acquire more electrical connections between the nerve cells when they experience new things, he told LifeZette.
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The fact that brains can grow new pathways is a scientific fact. It’s accepted that “a former inactive part of the brain can form new functions and become active,” said Dr. Murray Grossan, a Los Angeles physician.
For example, when a person loses the ability to speak as a result of a stroke, through therapy and practice the person’s brain rebuilds new pathways so that eventually the individual may regain the ability to speak.
A similar action happens when creative people experience unique situations. “By opening their minds to new stimuli, they literally lay down new neural pathways in their brains, creating new electrical connections between brain cells, opening new channels of thought,” said Wilson.
Creative individuals are also flexible in their thinking, he added.
“Innovators readily abandon traditional ways of viewing things and go off in new directions. In other words, they are willing to take risks and to break the rules.”
Everyone is born creative, it’s just that most of us learn to suppress those tendencies through socialization and education, Wilson said. It follows, then, that the average person simply believes he isn’t creative — which then shapes his behavior.
An individual can foster the imagination simply by changing the way he or she does things, said James Giordano, neuroscientist and professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Altering the way we do things challenges our brain to create new pathways.
For example, using your non-dominant hand, re-arranging items on a desk or in a cupboard, taking new routes to work or changing a daily routine can foster new ways of thinking.
Other ways to encourage creative output are to make a shopping list by drawing pictures instead of writing notes, or make up rhymes or songs about daily events.
Scientists are working on a new technology to activate and engage brain networks that function in creative processes. Called transcranial electrical stimulation, this technology is new and requires more testing, but the results are promising, Giordano told LifeZette.
If creativity is a learned trait, how can parents ensure their children will maintain that quality?
Childhood is a natural time of curiosity and problem solving, so encouraging new ways of thinking will help the child harness their artistic abilities, Giordano said.
Learning how to play an instrument, learning a new language, dabbling in expressive arts such as drawing, painting and sculpting — all of these activities help a person see things in different ways.
Finally, don’t stop playing simply because you’ve grown up.
Playing may be the best way to enhance imagination, urged Giordano. “It generates imaginative cognition and sort of takes your brain ‘out of the box’ to think about things in ways that are not constricted by formal rules or designs.”