“Wired to Create” offers a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people. Creativity is associated with a wide variety of traits that can often seem paradoxical and contradictory. Creative individuals often have messy minds and take circuitous paths to their breakthrough ideas, but they also have the ability to see an idea through.
Openness to new experiences correlates strongly to creativity and in this book are nine more habits of thought that can help you develop your own creativity.
You may still be wondering if you should read the book. This book summary will tell you everything about this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Lesson 1: Creators have a strong need to excel in their chosen fields of study.
Have you ever wondered what drives creative people to tirelessly pursue their craft? According to Scott Barry Kaufman’s book, “Wired to Create,” creative people are fueled by an insatiable passion for their art, which is often sparked by an epiphany. This revelation is a powerful experience with a form of artistic expression that has a profound and lasting impact on their lives.
Take, for example, Jacqueline du Pré, a world-renowned cellist who fell in love with music at a young age. When she was just four years old, she heard a cello for the first time and told her mother, “That’s the sound I want to make.” From that moment on, she was driven by a “rage for mastery,” a relentless pursuit of excellence in her craft.
This passion for their art is not just a matter of preference; it is a neurological need. Martha J. Morelock, an American psychologist, found that the minds of creative people require constant stimulation from their area of interest to function at their best. This kind of engagement meets a crucial neurological need and allows them to concentrate and perform at their best.
But where does this passion come from? According to longitudinal researcher E. Paul Torrance, many people’s crucial interests emerge in the first years of life. In his research on highly creative adolescents, Torrance found that many of the children he studied had developed a particular interest by the time they entered elementary school, and this interest often persisted into adulthood.
Those who discovered their passion early were more likely to achieve mature originality than those who did well in school as children but were not interested in anything in particular as adults.
Lesson 2: People with a flair for art tend to be sensitive and emotional.
When we think of artists, we often picture them as confident and outgoing individuals, effortlessly performing in front of large audiences. However, the reality is that many artists, despite their public personas, are quite sensitive and shy. This sensitivity, rooted in biology, can actually be a driving force behind their creativity.
Psychologist Jennifer O. Grimes conducted interviews with musicians who performed at heavy metal festivals and discovered that they were all highly sensitive. These artists had incredibly keen hearing, allowing them to discern numerous nuances in a single chime. According to psychologist Jerome Kagan, 10-20% of young children possess hyperactive nervous systems, predisposing them to be more emotionally reactive.
This heightened sensitivity can nurture creativity, as it encourages individuals to pay closer attention to the sensory nuances and patterns in their environment. Psychologist Elaine Aron suggests that highly sensitive people can learn faster than their less observant counterparts, providing an ideal foundation for innovative thinking.
However, being highly sensitive is not without its challenges. Researcher Darya Zabelina points out that while highly sensitive people may have a greater capacity for originality, they can struggle to filter out irrelevant stimuli. This makes it difficult for them to ignore distractions that others might not even notice, such as car horns or footsteps.
Yet, sensitivity has benefits beyond fostering creativity. Psychologists W. Thomas Boyce and Bruce Ellis propose that biological context sensitivity (BSC) is an advantageous trait that has evolved to help us in various situations. Depending on the circumstances, BSC may enhance our ability to recognize danger or preserve our willingness to engage in new, mutually beneficial relationships with others.
Lesson 3: Creative people are more inspired by new situations.
Have you ever felt stuck in a rut, struggling to come up with new ideas? Maybe it’s time to shake things up and try something different. According to Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Wired to Create, a change of scenery can do wonders for your creativity.
Kaufman’s research shows that a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to try new things are more important for creative achievement than intelligence or other personality traits. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out novelty and adventure, fueled by the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine is commonly associated with pleasure, but it’s also released whenever we anticipate achieving a worthwhile goal or experience a positive outcome. This drive to seek novelty manifests itself in both mental and physical exploration, stimulating the imagination and making us more sensitive to our environment.
But the benefits of seeking out new experiences go beyond just the chemical aspects. Immersing ourselves in a new place or meeting new people can open up a world of possibilities. Studies have shown that periods of immigration often precede eras of creative achievement, as the influx of new ideas and cultural values creates a more fertile and stimulating environment for original thinking.
So, how can you apply this to your own life? It doesn’t have to be as drastic as moving to a new country – even small changes can make a difference. Take a different route to work, try a new hobby, or strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. The more we learn and experience, the more fodder we have for developing original concepts.
In short, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Your creativity – and your brain – will thank you for it.
Lesson 4: One way for artists to get in touch with their inner selves is through daydreaming, and intuitive thinking.
Have you ever been lost in thought and told to concentrate? As it turns out, daydreaming can be just as useful for learning as conscious effort, especially when it comes to artistic pursuits. In his book “Wired to Create,” Scott Barry Kaufman explains that daydreaming can help with self-discovery and overcoming mental blocks. It allows you to access your subconscious mind and see things from a new perspective.
Even the great psychologist Carl Jung used daydreaming to overcome emotional challenges. By imagining his thoughts digressing, he was able to open a channel of communication between his conscious and unconscious selves and find inventive solutions. This is just one example of how exciting discoveries can seem to come from subconscious thought processes.
In fact, numerous researchers advocate for dual process models of cognition that divide thinking into two categories. “Type 1” processes include intuitive and emotional judgments, mental shortcuts, and implicit learning that don’t require active involvement of the conscious mind. On the other hand, “Type 2” thinking involves laborious, effortful thought that includes deductive reasoning, rational thought, and introspection.
While these processes were once thought to occur in isolation from each other, Kaufman developed a theory of dual processes that assumes complementarity between the two. Type 1 processes can run in the background and help with pattern recognition and sorting new information, and can be observed in all intelligent activity to some degree.
For example, the Greek philosopher and mathematician Archimedes developed a method for estimating volume while he was taking a bath. He had been stuck on the problem for some time, but inspiration struck him while he was daydreaming in the tub. This moment of enlightenment is said to have been expressed with the exclamation “heureka!” which has since become synonymous with moments of insight and discovery.
So, the next time you find yourself daydreaming, don’t be too hard on yourself. Your subconscious may be working on something important, and you never know when inspiration may strike.
Lesson 5: Intelligent people often seek isolation because it allows them to focus on their craft.
Sometimes the best way to relax after a busy day is to take a long, solitary walk and have a few hours to yourself and your thoughts. Not only can this be a great way to clear your head, but it can also help stimulate your creativity. In fact, many of history’s most brilliant minds were avid walkers who used their time on foot to ponder ideas and relax in peace.
Take Immanuel Kant, for example. Despite his physical limitations, he made it a point to take a daily walk for an hour on the same path, always alone, to give himself the space to think in peace. As Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard noted, “outer silence opens the doors of inner silence,” so spending time alone in nature can reveal previously undiscovered ideas and images. Without constant interruptions, we’re better able to concentrate and let new thoughts germinate.
Walking isn’t the only way to engage with solitude, though. After ending his career as a filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman moved to a small island off the coast of Sweden to find the solitude he craved. There he learned to process his thoughts and feelings, which he later used in his films. The beauty of being alone is that you can listen to your own inner voice and learn to trust it, which is fundamental to any form of creative work.
The French philosopher Michel de Montaigne believed that it was difficult to think creatively in the modern world unless you cut yourself off from all social influences. “Contagion is really harmful in quantity,” he said, referring to the contagious spread of information. Montaigne believed that one should reserve a small portion of one’s life for oneself, providing time for introspection and recreation.
Wired to Create Review
Through an investigation of ten “habits of mind” that are commonly found in creative people, “Wired to Create” provides a fascinating glimpse into the messy, paradoxical, and sometimes chaotic world of creativity. The authors argue that creativity cannot be reduced to a simple set of rules or formulas, but rather is a process that reflects the fundamentally chaotic and multi-faceted nature of human beings.
One of the key takeaways from the book is that creative people are not simply born that way, but rather cultivate their creativity through a combination of traits such as openness to new experiences, self-knowledge, and an understanding of tragedy. In other words, creativity is something that can be fostered and developed over time.
The authors also challenge some traditional ideas about creativity, such as the left/right brain theory and the correlation between creativity and IQ or divergent thinking. Instead, they argue that creative people are often characterized by their ability to embrace contradictory ideas and their deep passion for their work.
Of course, the road to creativity is not always smooth. As the authors point out, the initial thrill of a new idea is often followed by the grindingly slow execution of that idea. They use examples such as Picasso’s sketches for Guernica to illustrate the amount of energy that can be wasted along the way.
Overall, Wired to Create is a thought-provoking and insightful exploration of the complexities of creativity. While it may not provide easy answers or formulas, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of creative individuals and provides valuable guidance for anyone looking to cultivate their own creativity.
Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, is a scientist who studies how intelligence, creativity, and personality develop. He uses different approaches to understand and value all types of minds and how they can achieve great things.
Carolyn Gregoire is a journalist who writes for the Huffington Post about psychology, neuroscience, and human behavior. Her work has been featured in several other publications, including Time and Scientific American. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
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