The Creative Process 2 ‘Frustration’

Written by

Andrew Millar


April 29, 2007

Want to hear a disgusting story?

Many years ago I watched a series on the ABC called the ‘Body in Question’. The presenter, Dr Jonathon Miller, was talking about the brain and described the following…

In Canada in the 1950s they experimented with a bizarre treatment for Epilepsy. They believed that the two hemispheres of the brain controlled their individual sides of our body – the left side controlled the left motions and the right side controlled the right motions. The transfer of information flowed between the two sides through the Corpus Callosum, a structure at the base of the brain that acts as an underpass for information to flow between the two sides.

Their treatment consisted of severing this connection as they felt seizures were caused by two sides trying to control the body’s movement at the same time. This caused a kind of traffic jam of information to the muscles.

The treatment didn’t work. But it did lead to a remarkable discovery.

The two hemispheres of our brain think very differently. It’s like they don’t belong to the same family, let alone headspace.

Firstly, let me explain that the right side controls the left side of the body and the left side controls the right. They know this by taking a bit of time during the severing operation to poke about a bit. Literally poke about. They’d stick a needle into an area, run a tiny electric current through it and watch which bit twitched. It is bizarre creepy footage to see someone without the top of his or her skull ticking and jumping on a gurney. The patients were, by the way, sedated but conscious.

Once they had got these poor beggars back together, they continued their explorations. And this is where this story becomes relevant.

They found that with the right eye covered only the left brain received information. And with the left eye covered only the right brain received information. And by setting visual puzzles they found a dramatic difference in thinking patterns.

They found that the left brain deals in known facts. It is the one that was paying attention during all of those rote learning sessions at Primary School. It knows that 1+1=2 because that is what it has been taught.

The truth is it only knows things it has been taught.

So while your left brain was learning the Kings and Queens of England, your right brain on the was daydreaming; gazing out of the window.

The right plays games. It deals in unknowns. It has fun.

And it is by using the two of them, playing their individual roles, that we find the next stage of the creative process: Frustration.

The first step of Preparation is all left brain. It reads the facts. It stores the facts. It sorts the facts. And it arranges the facts. And that’s its job.

But then frustration sets in because the left brain tries to solve the problem on its own. And being a left brain, it deals in what it knows and goes looking for a solution it has seen before. It searches for old ideas that it thinks might suit.

And of course, that strikes at the heart of real creativity – the bringing together of two previously unrelated ideas to form something new and meaningful. Ol’ Lefty just isn’t equipped to deal with this. So it sits and sulks.

What we need to do is flick all of this information over to the right hand side of our heads. This is the place of creativity on our bodies.

How do we do this? How do we transfer these ideas over?

Simple. Just don’t think.

Yes. The best way of thinking is to not think. It will scare your company accountant to see you sitting still, doing nothing. And you may find it hard at first, but practise. All you have to do is set aside two or three scheduled times a day to formally download your ideas and then spend the rest of your time with a clear mind.

Take a walk. Go for a swim. Sleep on it. (How many times have you dreamed the answer to a problem?) Tidy your desk. Wash your car. Pat the dog. Do anything but use your left brain on the problem.

And soon you’ll have a Eureka moment. And that’s the subject of the next chapter in this series.

Andrew Millar
Creative Director