I’ve been having a bit of fun reading a couple of reviews, and especially the reader comments, about the book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” by Jonah Lehrer. One review is glowing and the other slams the entire premise and style of the book. Part of my amusement is that the nasty write-up got 27 comments, mainly from some very articulate folks saying to the reviewer, “Atta boy. That’s the way to nail this sort of drivel.” The favorable article drew 4 comments and most of those disagreed with the reviewer.
This all goes to show that we are more inclined to act when we are feeling feisty. I won’t say feeling negative but that’s generally the case too.
Now for those who haven’t heard about Lehrer’s book, in it, he dissects the neurological and social roots of creativity. He’s a little too glib for my taste but when I heard him interviewed, I liked his explanation of why we tend to have bright ideas at certain moments, like when we take a shower.
In the shower, we’re off the clock. You can’t really get a lot done in the shower except take a shower. Lehrer says at times like these, our mind wanders and that’s when the right side of our brain can pop out a notion that the left side of the brain says, “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” Lehrer gives examples of companies, like 3M, that build free time into the regular schedule where people still get paid, but are formally off the clock in that they are supposed to do something other than work on a company project.
My gut sense is that in the shower, my internal editor is putting his heels up. He’s not watching and judging every thought that crosses my mind, giving that one a thumbs up and the other a thumbs down.
Most of the time, he’s like the readers of those reviews. He’s on the case applying all the little rules he uses and he’s a little more energized by things he dislikes than those he enjoys. As a result, some fresh material doesn’t pass muster and never makes it to consciousness. It becomes the collateral damage of my cognitive process.
The habit of judging too early isn’t limited to our internal life. It happens all the time in our relations with others and that’s where we might stand to learn from the creative process. I defy anyone to say there’s never been a time when some bit of malarkey that came out of another person’s mouth turned out to have some merit at the end of the day. The challenge of living consciously is to have that flexibility to withhold judgment and let things evolve –when we’re not in the shower.