There’s plenty of assumptions about creativity: only select people are creative, creativity takes up loads of time, and the like. But another creativity myth is that somehow creative folks are more focused than normal humans and that it is this focus that allows them to be creative.
Not true. And I’ve got the scientists behind me to prove it.
Headed by Darya Zabelina, researchers at Northwestern University showed that an ability to succumb to distractions actually means you may be one of the more creative individuals in the world. (See “Creative Genius Driven by Distraction“)
Now, being distracted is bad when you’re driving, so don’t take this research to mean that it’s okay to multi-task while you’re behind the wheel.
In the study, 100 human guinea pigs were forced to listen to various noises. The little piggies who were more distracted by the sounds were also those who had more creative abilities. The piggies who could ignore the noises ranked higher in tests that required less creativity.
How does this work? Zabelina describes it well when she says that because the creative piggies have more information coming in “they have more information to choose from. This can lead to novel combinations.”
Besides driving, there’s several areas in our lives where concentrating is important – working with dangerous chemicals, mountain climbing, doing your taxes – but this doesn’t mean you have to be focused every moment of the day. Allow yourself some time to take in the world and all its noises and sights. You just never know what it might lead to.
P.S. This does NOT mean it is okay to distract me when I’m in the middle of a writing frenzy. Trust me, once that train of thought is derailed, it’s never getting back up to speed.
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TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCILS.