Posted by: cmegge00 | April 10, 2012

Residue of Time Wasted

April 10, 2012

Hi Folks,

I just read a review of the book Imagine:  How Creativity Works by Johah Lehrer in the Barnes and Noble Review (BARNESANDNOBLEREVIEW.COM).  I haven’t read the book yet, but the words of Jonah Lehrer in the interview, published on April 10, 2012, have inspired me.  Here’s the gist of what I got from the article:

Mr. Lehrer says that the book is about “our most important talent:  the ability to imagine what has never existed.”  It is neither pure freedom of the mind, nor an innate trait, but a sum of minor factors that influence creative output.  It’s a myth that it is easy and effortless, that the gods will take care of us through our muse.  He says, “Nothing could be further from the truth.  Instead, creativity is like any other human talent–it takes an enormos amount of effort to develop.  And then, even after we’ve learned to effectively wield the imagination, we still have to invest the time and energy needed to fine-tune our creations.  If it feels easy, then you’re doing it wrong.”

The (unnamed) Barnes and Noble interviewer suggests that the paradox of creativity is that “it seems to require both resolute, disciplined focus and in Yo Yo Ma’s phrase, ‘the abandon of a child.'”

Mr. Lehrer replies that different parts of the creative process require different kinds of thinking.  “For instance, a big epiphany relies on a very different set of brain structures than the editing that comes afterwards.  A pianist in the middle of an improvised solo is thinking very differently from an inventor tweaking a gadget….  There is no universal prescription for creative thinking.”

The reviewer’s last question:  “Has working on this topic changed the way you think, your approach to ‘creative’ tasks?  Do you work differently than you did before you started this book?”

“It definitely has.  I think the single biggest change is how I respond to a creative block.  Before, when I was stuck on a piece of writing–and I’m often stuck–I’d chain myself to my desk.  I’d drink strong coffee and will myself to focus until I found the answer.  I assumed that the answer would only arrive if I searched for it relentlessly.

“Of course, I’d often wake up the next day and realize that my ‘answer’ was often an illusion, that I’d stayed up late to get a fix that didn’t really fix anything.  And so I’d be forced to begin again.

“And here’s where the science comes in handy.  Now, when I’m really stuck, I think about all that research on moments of insight which suggests that insights are far more likely to arrive when we’re relaxed, and better able to eavesdrop on the murmurs of the unconscious.  Instead of staying at my desk, I go for a long walk.  Einstein once declared that ‘creativity is the residue of time wasted.’  So I guess you could say I’ve gotten better at wasting time.”

So, fellow writers, I’ve focused on writing this blog which, although mostly Mr. Lehrer’s words, tells me that not only do I need to sit in my chair and focus, but that I also need to allow my mind to relax and look for an epiphany of thought about my current poem, my current novel or my current other novel.  Think I’ll go for a walk.  Later,

Carol J. Megge


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