Creative expression may require thinking, planning, research, evaluation and other conscious intellectual activity, but at some stages in the process it can be helpful, even necessary, to set aside thinking and give up an attachment to knowing.
One of the early theorists on the creative process, Graham Wallas, defined five stages, including preparation (requiring mental focus, evaluation etc) and incubation, where “nothing external seems to be happening.”
This unconscious work of our minds may even be the most critical, at least once we have provided enough mental “fuel” to work on.
Eckhart Tolle advises getting comfortable with the state of “not knowing.”
“When you can be at ease with not knowing, you have already gone beyond the mind,” he says. “A deeper knowing that is non-conceptual then arises out of that state.
“Artistic creation, sports, dance, teaching, counseling — mastery in any field of endeavor implies that the thinking mind is either no longer involved at all or at least is taking second place.”
From his article: Don’t Take Your Thoughts Too Seriously.
In his book Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity, Dean Keith Simonton says research indicates that unconscious mental operations “may be particularly useful to the solution of problems that require creative insight.”
He also thinks unconscious processes can support a “feeling of knowing” comparable to “the unjustified ‘hunches’ that are so often reported by creative individuals.”
But, he notes, these feelings of intuition are not infallible.
Still, there is research to support using intuition for creative problem-solving.
A study by University College London indicates you are more likely to perform well on a symbol discrimination task if “you do not think too hard and instead trust your instincts,” according to their press release article, Trusting your instincts leads you to the right answer.
Author and giftedness consultant Stephanie S. Tolan writes: “Judging the products of imagination as real or unreal may be a waste of time and mental effort. What is far more important is whether they ‘work,’ whether they are useful, whether they have an impact on lives or on the world.”
From my post Intuition – real/unreal, helpful/risky?
Acting teacher and consultant Jennifer Lehman notes that our thinking is very linear and one dimensional, and “we get attached to it and its ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ and ‘let me go in there and fix it’.
“A creative experience has many layers all at the same time. And if you’re trying to juggle a bunch of ideas and keep them all in balance, it’s going to limit your availability to feeling states.”
From my article Creativity and Flow Psychology.
Maybe that is really the creative value of not-knowing: more access to feelings without judgment.
This post currently has
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.
From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: August 10, 2010 | World of Psychology (August 10, 2010)
The Creative Benefits to Not Knowing | Beyond Nines (September 19, 2010)
Last reviewed: 8 Aug 2010