Creativity: reactivity followed by formalization

Creativity is inspiration followed by expression. Generally, the inspiration is achieved during an introspective moment, whereas the expression of this requires some kind of audience (even an imaginary one). The biggest obstacle in creativity is switching from introvert mode to extravert mode in order to capture the insight. (It is possible to “create” in an entirely extraverted way by simply rearranging ideas that already exist, but this isn’t what I mean.)

The starts with multiple abstract ideas, sitting around in the frontal lobe. During a moment of introspection on some concrete memory (without words), the brain sees the ideas in a new light (an intuition) which completely explains the whole picture in a new way, like a Gestalt shift. The comparison of intuitions to Gestalt shifts is uncanny- I think it is literally the same phenomenon, except we’re seeing memories from a new perspective instead of current sense data. This is (usually) an entirely nonverbal, perceptual phenomenon. It requires a great deal of mental energy to translate it into words and symbols, which is an extraverted function.

(I don’t think it’s an accident that thals enjoy watching fire or slow-moving water. The changing shapes can trigger visions. My favorite is to look out the window at the branches and leaves of a tree, especially if the wind is moving them. I can’t tell you how many daydreams I’ve had with some imaginary guy copping a particular facial expression when suddenly the dream ends and I’m seeing that face randomly etched into the bark of a tree. After which I’ll marvel, “Wow, my brain came up with that entire story just as a possible reason why somebody could be making that face.” It’s kinda disappointing though, because like most dreams you never get to see the ending.)

People with lots of mental energy take verbal expression of these ideas for granted. High-functioning autistic people know better: it’s like taking the entire outside world full of color and details and compressing the whole thing into and inside your head, and spontaneously picking a few words to describe the feeling this produces (without losing too much of the meaning or context).

In the blogosphere- and, I suspect, in academia- we typically see people responding to something else. It is much easier to put forth the new idea as a comment on something else, even if the principle was originally conceived weeks ago in the shower, with a completely different context. Why is this so much easier than simply sitting down and writing out the idea? I believe this is the reason. It is very hard to talk your way around a nonverbal idea for the first time.

It’s frustrating, and when it doesn’t come out right you want to shut back down into introspection mode to retrieve the idea, but the chances that you can switch back and forth several times are slim. Switching is hard. (This is why I think getting stuck in a flow state is so important, and thus why practice is so important.)

The key here is momentum. Once an introspective person gets warmed up at talking, the flood gates open. This is why we see introspective creative people go off on a lot of weird tangents. Texas Arcane is the best possible example of this. He’ll often start off a post by linking to a news article, then spend a paragraph being irascible, then go off on completely unrelated tangents about ideas that have been rolling around his head for months. Some of his best posts are in the P.S, P.P.S., P.P.P.S., and P.P.P.P.S.

It’s absolutely imperative to express these ideas because then we, the creators, can respond (again) to what we’ve just written. This is how we encode new ideas into the latticework of mental models, and if we don’t then we can’t move up the ladder to greater abstraction. We might be able to picture and name every animal in the area, but we can’t sort them into taxonomies without compressing the visions into language. It’s kinda crazy. Also, it’s impossible for other creative people to respond to the ideas unless they’re communicated.

This post is a great example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to write out this idea, and given up. Hopefully a little repetition will make it easier to express, and hopefully I can reiterate it in response to something concrete written by somebody else.

Anyway, when the bigocc is trying to talk its way through some new idea the writeprint will have a lot of tangents, a lot of parentheses, and zero organization. The best I’ve been able to manage in the past is to set up all of the ideas that produced the shift, and then try to guide the reader through it. But the fact is that the reader has to be most of the way there anyway.

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About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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2 Responses to Creativity: reactivity followed by formalization

  1. j says:

    this is exactly what happens when i wake up after a dream and try to describe what transpired in it. usually i manage at most 5-10% of it. kudos on being able to actually explain it.

  2. Pingback: Sometimes I wonder | Aeoli Pera

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