Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The Creative Brain
Recently, a discussion took place on the Writers Digest message boards. The question that was posed: Can Anyone Write A Novel? To be more specific, could anyone write a publishable novel? Oddly enough, some believed the answer was yes. I suppose this is because most of the posters are unpublished writers who don't want to believe the facts, that of everyone who submits a manuscript, 1% or less will be accepted. They want to have hope. For this, I can't blame them--but as a published author, I find it just a little insulting.
It's as unrealistic as me deciding I'm going to be a supermodel. It ain't gonna happen.
A few years ago, a dear friend gave me a book for Christmas: THE CREATING BRAIN: THE NEUROSCIENCE OF GENIUS by Nancy C. Andreasen, MD, PhD. It's one of the few scientific explorations into what makes one creative, and gives someone like myself, a writer, valuable insights.
Dr. Andreasen gets a few things that even those closest to me don't: like how creative people have trouble with the order and rules that give a "comfortable structure" to everyday life. I guess that explains why I can't balance a checkbook and have trouble with anything involving numbers. I even get messed up when it comes to time. I always failed at diets because I'd rebel against having to continually write down every bite I took.Then I'd go eat a whole box of donuts!
Diets have always backfired, so now I don't do them.
Dr. Andreasen writes about the creative process as one that isn't rational or logical, in which one slips into a state of intense focus and concentration. She describes it as moving into another reality, in which the person appears to be conscious but lost in thought. (That's also a partial complex seizure; sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.)
She says creative people are often so flooded with ideas, they find it hard to focus. Yep. Been there, done that. It can be a real pain.
I saw a segment on the evening news recently about an artist who had opted to not have surgery to remove a dangerous growth in her brain because her artistic talent had become heightened after its appearance. It was suggested by experts that when that rational, logical part of the brain became damaged, and therefore disabled, the creative side became stronger, much in the same way that one's remaining senses compensate when one of them is lost.
I can believe this. I've had a brain injury--more than one, actually--that have impaired certain logical functions. But the creative side seems to be alive and well and working overtime. I get frustrated when I see people I've known most of my life and can't recall their names, or forget where I left my birth certificate, making it impossible for me to get a new ID with the correct address. Sometimes I forget my own phone number, but I remember all of my characters' names. I'm awful with appointments. I forget to thaw the chicken for dinner, but I can still write.
I've been assured it's not my memory, it's an inability to concentrate. Or maybe I'm just getting old....