This is the first in a series of posts exploring the connection between creativity and our senses.
To create is to make something that can be perceived, that gets into the brain—and the soul—through one or more of five pathways we call senses. Without our senses, we wouldn’t experience anything. We wouldn’t create anything. Our senses let us connect to the world around us.
One of the marks of expressive, creative work is how well it maximizes these pathways to make an impact on people. Our creative team has been playing with the senses to strengthen our creative muscles. We are exploring how appealing intentionally to the senses can improve our creativity.
The Pathway of Hearing
What can we discover about the pathway of hearing that can make us more creative?
Editor on Mute
Hearing may be the most difficult sense to ignore. Ears plugs help, but hearing is always on (even during sleep). And it doesn’t necessarily weed out the important sounds from the unimportant.
That could be good news. Creativity is stifled by too much editing too soon. The ears are poor editors, but they could be good explorers of possibilities. Next time you need a creative jumpstart, close your eyes and let your ears take over.
Improv and Inner Critics
Otolaryngologist Charles Limb mapped the flow of creative juices through the brains of jazz musicians. When these musicians improvise, “the brain deactivates the area involved in self-monitoring and observation, while cranking up the region linked with self-expression. So essentially, a musician shuts down his inhibitions and lets his inner voice shine through.” (Music on the Mind) Update: link to Music on the Mind no longer exists, but here is Charles Limb’s TED Talk Your Brain on Improv.
You Can’t Believe Your Eyes
When we hear sounds, our brain integrates information from our ears with what our eyes are seeing. Visual cues can actually shape what we “hear.” The McGurk Effect is a fascinating-to-watch example of how sight shapes hearing.
Hearing is easy, says Seth S. Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University and the author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. “But listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload. And yet we dare not lose it. Because listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense.” Listening is how we pay attention, and paying attention is how we feed creativity. (The Science and Art of Listening)
Now Hear This
Here’s a video of our creative team exploring the sense of hearing using food as a creative tool.