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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : Retraining the Brain

Be Mused

Retraining the Brain

Dear Muse,

Some think that creativity is inherited, while others believe that we can be taught to be creative. I'm not imaginative at all, but I'd like to improve in this area of my life. In hopes that this trait can be acquired, I'm willing to give it a try. Do you have any ideas that can help? — Not a creative bone in my body

Did you ever wonder what your creative bone would look like if you did have one in your body? That will be our first step. Imagine its presence. It's small at first — so small that your doctor won't even notice it on the X-ray. Maybe it's somewhere near the base of your skull or situated next to your clavicle, and it's bright purple even though all of the rest of your bones are just, you know, bone-colored. Truth is, you do have that creative bone in your body, and, as you will see, it is as strong and resilient as any child's.

Of course some people are more predisposed to it than others, but creativity is a powerful tool that we are never too young or too old to develop. Mostly, creativity means letting your mind play. You'll have to be willing to unlearn some of the things you "know" and ask lots and lots of questions. For instance, does dessert always have to come after dinner? Are we really too old to color with crayons? Or stay up all night or learn to skydive? Remember when we were four, five, six years old? Most of us were unstoppable askers of questions. Some of them were downright absurd, but if you can dispense with the usual restrictions and give your mind permission to wander, you can be creative.

Be sure to check out one of my favorite authors, Roger von Oech. In his book A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, he poses some great, silly questions. For instance, "If we call oranges 'oranges,' why don't we call bananas 'yellows' or apples 'reds'?" and "What happens to your lap when you stand up?" Von Oech's A Kick in the Seat of the Pants and Expect the Unexpected (Or You Won't Find It) will interest you, too.

Now, this next part may be a bit uncomfortable for you — especially since you've probably been telling yourself for years that you have no imagination. I want you to train your brain to do something you thought you never could do. Taking up a musical instrument is very good, but affording lessons and equipment can be a problem. Instead, be open to the idea of learning to draw. Pencils and paper are cheap, and Betty Edwards's book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is all you need to build your confidence and create some brand new neuropathways, too. Sounds crazy? That's OK. No one needs to know what you're up to, and you'll never have to show your drawings to anyone. If you stick with it, you will learn to see things — literally and figuratively — quite differently.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike? The moment when everything clicked and you figured it out? That's what we're after. You absolutely can develop your creativity and imagination if you patiently apply yourself and have fun along the way. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »