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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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Entries in Jonah Lehrer (13)

Monday
Jul092012

The Origins of Creative Insight

Why does the Eureka moment arrive only after we stop looking for it? At Behance's 99% Conference, Jonah Lehrer explains how creative insight works and what drives incredible achievements.

Jonah Lehrer: The Origins of Creative Insight & Why You Need Grit from 99% on Vimeo.

See also: Lehrer, J. (2012). Imagine: How creativity works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Thursday
May312012

We Have to Make It Easy to Become a Genius

Excerpt from Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer:

As Paul Romer notes, “We do not know what the next major idea about how to support ideas will be.” And this is why it’s so important to keep searching for the effective meta-ideas of the future, for the next institution or attitude or law that will help us become more creative. We need to innovate innovation.

Because here is the disquieting truth: Our creative problems keep on getting more difficult. Unless we choose the right policies and reforms, unless we create more NOCCAs and fix the patent system, unless we invest in urban density, unless we encourage young inventors with the same fervor that we encourage young football stars, we’ll never be able to find the solutions that we so desperately need. It’s time to create the kind of culture that won’t hold us back.

The virtue of studying ages of excess genius is that they give us a way to measure ourselves. We can learn from the creative secrets of the past, from those outlier societies that produced Shakespeare and Plato and Michelangelo. And then we should look in the mirror. What kind of culture have we created? Is it a world full of ideas that can be connected? Are we willing to invest in risk takers? Do our schools produce students ready to create? Can the son of a glover grow up to write plays for the queen? We have to make it easy to become a genius.

Saturday
May122012

Stumped by the Form

Bert Geyer's visual representation of the form of a sonnet (photo by Bert Geyer)Excerpt from Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer:

"The constant need for insights has shaped the creative process. In fact, these radical breakthroughs are so valuable that we've invented traditions and rituals that increase the probability of an epiphany, making us more likely to hear those remote associations coming from the right hemisphere. Just look at poets, who often rely on literary forms with strict requirements, such as haikus and sonnets. At first glance, this writing method makes little sense, since the creative act then becomes much more difficult. Instead of composing freely, poets frustrate themselves with structural constraints.

But that's precisely the point. Unless poets are stumped by the form, unless they are forced to look beyond the obvious associations, they'll never invent an original line. They'll be stuck with clichés and conventions, with predictable adjectives and boring verbs. And this is why poetic forms are so important. When a poet needs to find a rhyming word with exactly three syllables or an adjective that fits the iambic scheme, he ends up uncovering all sorts of unexpected connections; the difficulty of the task accelerates the insight process."


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Sunday
Apr082012

The Difficulty of the Task Accelerates the Insight Process

Excerpt from Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

The constant need for insights has shaped the creative process. In fact, these radical breakthroughs are so valuable that we've invented traditions and rituals that increase the probability of an epiphany, making us more likely to hear those remote associations coming through the right hemisphere.

Just look at poets, who often rely on literary forms with strict requirements, such as haikus and sonnets. At first glance, this writing method makes little sense, since the creative act then becomes much more difficult. Instead of composing freely, poets frustrate themselves with structural constraints. 

But that's precisely the point. Unless poets are stumped by the form, unless they are forced to look beyond the obvious associations, they'll never invent and original line. They'll be stuck with clichés and conventions, with predictable adjectives and boring verbs. And this is why poetic forms are so important. When a poet needs to find a rhyming word with exactly three syllables or an adjective that fits the iambic scheme, he ends up uncovering all sorts of unexpected connections; the difficulty of the task accelerates the insight process. 

See also: "How to Cultivate Eureka Moments," a review of Imagine by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times, April 2, 2012

Monday
Mar262012

We Tell the Happy Ending First

"Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we've hit the wall. We have no idea what to do next.

When we tell stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase. We neglect to mention those days when wanted to quit. When we wanted to believe that our problem was impossible. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthrough. We tell the happy ending first.

The danger of this scenario is that the act of feeling frustrated is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can know the answer, before we can even know the question, we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it's only after we stop searching that the answer might arrive."

~ Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

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