PRX - What Sparks Creativity

This podcast from PRX’s, “To the best of our knowledge”, teases the question but never answers it. There are a number of interesting biographies from tortured artists, including Alan Turing, Kurt Gödel, Alma Mahler and Nathaniel Mary Quinn, which are worth listening to. As for the science behind creativity, this podcast doesn’t offer much.

Nevertheless, here are some interesting insights shared by the interviewees:

Consciousness has a limited capactiy; there is only so much you can hold in your head at one time but unconsciousness seems to be unlimited.

The creative brain-state is a different state. It doesn’t use the prefrontal cortex much. During sleep, meditation, intoxication, etc… in these other states we decrease filtration by the prefrontal cortex, allowing other things to bubble up from the subconscious.

There is a physiological character of writing. You have to be relaxed and have to be open. You are channeling something. “When the book is going well, the book knows a lot more than I do”.

If you ‘try’ to be creative, it has the opposite effect because it switches on the prefrontal cortex, and you are limiting your capacity. You have to take in the information consciously then leave it alone and let the subconscious mull over it; just walk away, let it be handled by the other brain state in the background.

Where in the brain is the ‘self’? There’s no one point in the brain that is the self; it’s an amalgamation. It will be based on something you’ve come across or encountered in your lifetime. There is novelty in the way in which you put pieces together. Genius is about creativity and putting together things in a novel way that nobody ever thought of before.

Memory is the foundation of creativity. People who’ve damaged the Hippocampus are not only bad at remembering but they are bad at imagining. Memory and imagination are a single faculty.

Dissociated Identity Disorder - could one monitor a writer and see if when you move from character to character, or writing as someone else, if the writer displays different physiological signs?

Being a genius or great original thinkers appear to have turbulent lives. They might objectively be better than ‘normal’ people because they are connecting to something more sublime.

Comedy = Tragedy + Time.

Mathematics - which you think of the ultimate rational pursuit - is so akin to mysticism.