Good News For the Creatively Challenged


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Glühbirne, explodiert“If you think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll get the result you’ve always got.”  – Roy Mussel

I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard that there are “right-brained” and “left-brained” people. The idea is that “left-brained” people are the type you’d expect to find at, say, your accounting firm’s Christmas party.

 “Right-brained” people, on the other hand, tend to be more artistic and possibly a little eccentric or scattered. Like, say, the bulk of ex-poets and actors working the tables at your local coffee shop.

 Like most generalizations, this isn’t quite right.

 While many of us have a bias in either creative or rational powers, the fact is that most people have both halves of their brain kicking into gear most of the time.

 On the left-side, we’re processing details and performing convergent thinking. On the right side, we’re applying abstract associations between details, the work of divergent thinking.

 Stroke patients who lose power on the left side of their brains tend to lose logic and language, but may suddenly become more creative. Patients who suffer right-side damage may be seem creative but also might seem more uninhibited or scattered.

 Take Einstein.

 Certainly, he had incredible powers of logic and process. He did the math, just as it had been done before he came along. But he also made the leap to creativity, finding new mathematical associations nobody else had recognized before.

 Here’s the better news…

 While few of us want a touch of neuron damage… and almost none of us, surely, were born an Einstein… there actually ARE ways you can increase your creative function. And many of them simply have to do with channeling the filtering function of your left-brain.

 One very simple way is just to keep reminding yourself to approach most moments in your life with curiosity. Another is to consistently reset your attitudes toward convention. That is, simply repeat to yourself that the way things have always been done is not necessarily the way the always have to be done.

 There there’s what researchers call “detail fermentation.” That’s a fancy way of saying, “do your homework.” It’s also the explanation I typically give when I tell people I don’t believe in “writer’s block.”

 That is, when you fill your mind with facts and data and details relevant to the ideas you’re trying to create, the more likely you are to succeed at creating them.

 Somehow, satisfying the left brain’s hunger for logic and process first… allows it to relax and let the right brain step in to find the overall creative associations between those details.

 Einstein did this while searching for “E=MC2.” For years, he studied not just physics and mathematics, but astronomy and philosophy and other fields too.

 So the next time you’re feeling like a failure creatively, before you give up try this tapping into this technique instead: Stop, drop, and study. Dig into the facts and materials you have to work with.

Then, and only then, see if the bigger and better ideas come.  

Last modified: March 20, 2017

5 Responses to " Good News For the Creatively Challenged "

  1. Michael Adragna says:

    I totally agree with you. It’s like my uncle used to say about painting: it’s niney-percent preparation. The same goes for writing. I have found that writer’s block is little more than lack of information or ideas. And the only way to get them is to read and study. It’s like writing a term paper for school. If you accumulate enough sources, the paper will almost write itself.

    That’s my two cents.

    Michael Adragna

  2. jackforde says:


    I can second that notion, two times over. I don’t know if I’ve ever had writer’s block (knock wood). I’ve always gone the other way, getting overwhelmed with lots of ideas and an enormous pile of research. That’s worth a second article to follow up on this, perhaps.

    I also used to be a house painter (during the college summers, my brother and I had our own business). The prep work took the longest amount of time on any job, by far. Except maybe cutting in paint on the window frames!

    Anyway, great points.


  3. Steve Newdell says:

    Well Of Course! Science is mearly taking facts and (like bricks) doing something else with them to build a better — chimney. And writing can’t begin without the information bits we’ll use to build our better article. Who would ever begin to build without the materials? Who ever would write without doing the research and information gathering first?

  4. jackforde says:

    Steve, well put… and you’d be surprised. I’m not sure I can count how many beginning writers I’ve worked with in workshops — both for copywriting and editorial writing — who don’t get this fundamental observation. So many start with style over substance. The adjectives, the scene, the language.

    In part, I can understand. After all, we know we’re selling to emotions long before we’re selling to the rationale mind. And how better to do that than to try to conjure up a scene. But even then, one finds it a lot easier if they have a canvas or framework on which to mount those details.

    Lack of deep research is easily the number one thing I find wrong in most of the copy I review and in the flawed writing processes of most of the newbie writers I’ve worked with. Incredible, perhaps, but true.

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