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Where does creativity come from?

And why we can all be creative... if we're willing to put in the work.

While it's easy to look at art and music as the only forms of creativity, we actually all have the capacity to be creative, and likely already are every single day! See, creativity at its core is about coming up with new ideas to solve problems: taking a task and looking at it through a lens of innovation and progression to create a unique way of doing something.

Understanding that, we can clearly see just how creative each of us are when we do what we love. A scientist studying cells in a petri dish looking for a cure for disease is creative, just as a manager looking to make a pathway for their younger team member's growth is.

So, why is creativity important?

Having a high capacity for creativity enables us to approach and solve problems in fresh and open ways. It opens our mind and helps us see the world from a different angle.

As well as that, creativity benefits our wellbeing and helps us progress, both individually and as a community. It also:

  • makes us more productive
  • helps us express ourselves
  • helps us see unique and different perspectives
  • boosts our confidence
  • brings us together
  • relieves anxiety and stress
  • keeps our minds active.

Where does creativity come from?

You may have heard the popular thought that creativity originates from the right side of our brain — that creative people are 'right-brain thinkers', and people who are more logical and analytical (or great at maths or science) are left-brain thinkers. However, a new study published by NeuroImage suggests this may not be the case.

The study had its participants, jazz guitarists with varying levels of experience, improvise on their instruments while they monitored their brain activity. They found the musicians who had less improvisation experience were creating from the right hemisphere of their brains. However, those that were more skilled and practised at improvisation relied on their left hemisphere.

This suggests that we use both sides of our brain when being creative, depending on how skilled or practised be are at our task. If we know what we're doing, we call upon the practised routines we've formed in our left-brain. But if we're unsure or just starting out, we use our right-brain to improvise through the unfamiliar.

Are some people more creative than others?

Another study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that highly creative people are able to co-activate networks in their brains that usually work separately. This finding is consistent across multiple scientific studies. So while all of us have the ability to be creative and flex our creative muscles, some of us are hard wired to be more creative than others.

Can I improve my creativity?

Unfortunately there's no clear scientific evidence that we can improve our creativity - yet! What is clear is that we can become better at our craft with time and practise. In this case, we aren't running out of creativity, and while some may be considered 'more' naturally creative earlier in life, we all have the opportunity to catch up and get better in the areas we want to.

Even more than that, as a creative novice, you haven't formed those ingrained habits that are unconsciously holding you back, meaning you can optimise your techniques before your left-brain takes over and you rely on what you could say is 'creative autopilot'.

Want to know more? Hear from TAFE Queensland’s resident musicians, Dr Ross McLennan and Rafe Scholer, who teach the Bachelor of Creative Industries (Contemporary Music Practice) (ARB403). In their webinar, our speakers delve into the topic of music narrative and design (creative theory) and ponder where creativity comes from.