THE MIND OF THE ARTIST: WHAT INHIBITS CREATIVITY?
Updated: Apr 12
I was speaking with a friend -- who happens to be a neurologist. I asked about the mind of the artist and if it's possible to increase creativity. He cautioned against viewing creativity as simply being found in the right side of the brain.
"Most people focus on the right side of the brain to explain where creativity comes from, but there's MUCH more to it," he said.
The frontal lobe plays an important role in the mind of the artist and research in frontotemporal dementia is illustrative of that. Frontotemporal dementia's impact is primarily in areas of behavior and language. The brain location of the disease is in the name: frontal (behind the forehead) and temporal (at the sides or temples) lobes.
It's the prefrontal cortex that stops you from doing socially-unacceptable things, such as leaving home without your pants, cutting in a long line at the bank, or creating/sharing artwork that might be judged in a negative way.
The prefrontal cortex is the mind's social filter.
There is significant research showing many cases of increased creativity in patients with frontotemporal dementia and it is theorized that this is due to the impairment in the frontal lobe. The theory postulates that once a person becomes socially disinhibited — loses the fear of being judged —the creative output blows up like a hurricane. This is seen in people struggling with Frontotemporal dementia.
Artists are internally preoccupied; we live in our heads and our imaginations.
Artists spend hours alone ruminating, creating, weighing the direction of their creative process, and comparing their work to others. In that process, the prefrontal cortex is active, creating an imaginary world in which the artist projects — and often fears — what the social response to their work may be. As the prefrontal cortex allows for predicting all the outcomes that may occur, that includes all the negative ones. ALL THE SELF-DOUBT AND SELF-LIMITING THOUGHTS LEARNED THROUGHOUT A LIFETIME IMPACT THE ARTIST'S WORK.
What if the artist was less inhibited by fear in creating their work?
How do we get rid of all those fears and negative self-talk without spending hours and thousands of dollars in psychoanalysis talking about our childhood?
Here are a few suggestions (I would love to learn of more methods. Please share):
FIND A MENTOR(S) Ask an artist you admire how they deal with self doubt. I’ve heard so many stories of rejected work from some very talented artists and I’m always shocked (and relieved--if I'm honest). Every artist in the history of humanity struggled with self doubt. Yes, even Dali.
SKETCHBOOKS Work in a sketchbook! If it’s just a sketch, the pressure is off.
Sketchbook rule #1: NEVER tear out a page.
Rule #2: you don't have to show your sketchbook to anyone, if you don't want to.
JOIN A GROUP OF SIMILARLY-TRAINED ARTISTS Join student groups where your work is amongst others who are in the same stage of the journey and there’s an understanding that a constructive approach will enhance learning.
PAINT/DRAW AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE This is a hard-learned point of reality and there is no way around it. Brush miles are crucial.
AWARENESS/MINDFULNESS Be mindful of all your senses, when jumping into your creative space. The EXPERIENCE of creating is important.
- Take a breath, notice how your body feels when thinking/beginning a piece of work. Anxiety is part of being human. Inhale and SLOWLY exhale.
- Make sure you're nourished with food/drink.
- Find a comfortable place to work with good light. Your space — big or small — should be your haven and you may selfishly shut out the world for the time being. Give yourself that permission. This is your time and it is IMPORTANT.
- Play music you love or nature sounds. I often play a track of a rain storm. It's a rare sound in Southern California and one of my favorites.
- Mentally thank the people in your life who supported you to become an artist. I keep a photo of my mom in the studio to remind me that she believed in me. If you can't think of anyone, thank yourself for bravely seeing this through and knowing that being an artist is in your soul (or you wouldn't have read through this lengthy post). :-)
- COMPLIMENT YOURSELF OUT LOUD. BE KIND TO YOU. Words matter and you can change your brain.
Please share other methods — in the comments — that work for you.