by Dean Terry

If you are interested at all in the concept of creativity, you need to read this Wall Street Journal article, “Chains That Set us Free.”  Now, there have been any number of articles, musicians, and all kinds of creatives that talk about the benefits of setting limits when attempting to be creative.  But, none have put it in such a way that really explained why boundaries are necessary for our brains to be most creative.  Jonah Lehrer says,

The larger lesson is that the brain is a neural tangle of near-infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in literal prose, not symbolist poetry.

“Creativity is traded away for efficiency.” Wow, I’ve humorously labeled myself an efficiency guru. I’m always looking for the fastest route to the next destination (which is sometimes annoying I’m told), the most efficient way of covering teaching material at a lesson, etc.  So, it makes perfect sense to me now why, when I am sitting down to compose something for my students, I am paralyzed unless I know what I am writing about.  Knowing what technical skills of pianists I am writing for is also helpful, but not nearly so helpful as knowing what I am writing about.  If it’s a pirate, I am so much more efficient finding piratey sounds. If it’s a rainbow, then my creativity is efficiently channeled to a certain type of sound.  If it’s a piece for a string quartet, then at least some of those pathway searching neurons can be more effectively channeled.

I’ve wondered whether needing to know my subject or at least some boundary is a weakness or a strength, but I’m happy to realize that its just a part of the process of efficiency that helps me establish boundaries and find creativity in those boundaries.  Anyone else have these needs to find

It’s a great article, so don’t forget to read.