Saturday, May 2, 2015

Neural Pathways and Creativity

By Lacey Gunter

I have been reading a book about how the brain works. How it learns and improves. The book talks about what is termed 'neural plasticity'. It's like the new buzz word in dealing with problems associated with the brain. If you're interested in reading the book it is called The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge.

The book talks about how the brain creates and uses neural pathways, sort of like trails and roadways for accomplishing certain tasks.  When we try something new, a neural pathway is created to record how we accomplished the task. Just like trails out in the wild, the more we use the neural pathway, the more developed the pathway becomes. The less you use a pathway, the more it deteriorates and gets overgrown.

"So why does this matter to a writer?" you might be asking. Well I am no neurologist, but here's how see it. Your brain is like a jungle, Amazon style; where you need a machete to get around. Somewhere in the thick of that jungle is a beautiful pool of creativity, a place where awesome ideas are born. If you've never been to the pool or have only visited it occasionally, it's going to take some considerable effort to hack a pathway to it.

It would be nice if we could just camp by the pool and fish out great ideas any time we felt like it. But back in the real world,  we are mothers and wives and homemakers and employees and we don't have time to sunbathe by the pool. We have places to go and things to do, far away from the pool. Usually by the time we have hacked our way to the pool we have two seconds to dip our hand in before we have to run somewhere else.

So if we let the difficulty of the creative task intimidate us and keep us from trying very often, the pathway only gets more overgrown.  It is only through frequent attempts and practice that our neural pathway to creativity starts to become a paved road, with limited obstacles. So apparently all those great authors that talk about creativity coming more easily when they consistently put in the time were right. You want to be more creative? Get your butt in the chair and write;  preferably with a very large machete (figuratively speaking, of course).


  1. I love this analogy. I wonder if the rate of overgrowth the same as the weeds in my garden? If so, I should definitely be writing every day!



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