Where does the unique originality we call “creativity” come from? Michelangelo was a stonecutter’s son, and Shakespeare was the son of a middle-class businessman. What causes some people to soar free of their limited lives and make astonishingly creative contributions?
In her elegant, fascinating tour of creativity and the brain, Nancy Andreasen, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and the winner of the National Medal of Science, shows us that creativity is not the same as intelligence nor the same as skill. Rather, we discover, the essence of creativity is to shape the materials of life in new and unexpected ways.
Andreasen explores how the human brain achieves creative breakthroughs—in art, literature, music, and science—the role of patron or mentors, the possession of an omnivorous vision, the value of not having a “standard education,” and the question of “genius and insanity.”
The author shows is what extraordinary creators such as Mozart, Henri Poincaré, and Coleridge, said about creating and how they reflect special qualities of creative people and the creative process. She describes her fascinating interview with the playwright Neil Simon in which he discussed how his mind works. Andreasen’s studies of participants in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop suggest that creativity may be inherited and sometimes associated with mental disorders, through neither is necessary for creativity to flourish.
The author proposes that creativity can and should be encouraged and offers advice to nurture it in both children and adults
How does one define extraordinary creativity? Is creative genius a product of nature or nurture? And can those of us who are less creative enhance the creative capacity in ourselves and others? Andreasen (The Broken Brain), editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, brings neuroscience to bear in providing insight and expert analysis of the connections between extraordinary creativity, mental illness, intelligence and the social environment. The complex subject matter is punctuated with intriguing research, such as Andreasen's Iowa Writer's Workshop study examining the relationship between creativity and psychopathology; a study of London taxi drivers showing that their need for extensive memory of the city leads to a larger hippocampus; and a study of members of symphony orchestras that found increased gray matter in Broca's area. These studies lead Andreasen to conclude that "extraordinary creativity" is the result of neural processes that "differ qualitatively as well as quantitatively" from those of other people. The author's passion and admiration for creative genius and the arts not surprising given her Ph.D. in Renaissance English literature is evidenced in her exploration of such great minds as Mozart, da Vinci, Michelangelo and Tchaikovsky. And quotations from introspective accounts by mathematician Henri Poincar , chemist Friedrich Kekul , Stephen Spender and Neil Simon vividly describe mental activities that are anything but ordinary. Andreasen leaves us with hope that the potential exists to enhance the creative capacity in our children and in ourselves. Photos and illus.