How Does Your Brain Work?
Posted by Gail | Filed under Psychology
I’m a prolific writer. My editor, Kate, and I once counted up all the words I’d written over a 2-year period, including books, blogs and articles. The estimate: 750,000. Thems a lot of words.
One reason I write quickly is that I understand how my brain works. I have for years. Back when I was churning words as a corporate consultant (they get paid by the pound, y’know), I figured out that my brain needed time to noodle. So I’d do some research and then I’d sit and play video games. Nothing that made me think. Just the stuff – like bejeweled blitz, seven or solitaire – that distracted my front-brain so it couldn’t pass judgement on what my writer-brain was coming up with.
To this day I still work this way. I’ll set myself a goal for what I want to get done, then I’ll play games. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes two or three. Eventually my brain says, “K, that’s enough,” I open up a word document and the story pours out. It’s a little bit like magic for me.
Now comes research from the University of California, Santa Barbara (wish I were there!) that suggests tackling a problem head on may not be the best way. Researches asked three groups to tackle problems requiring creative solutions. First each group had to engage in an activity. The first group engaged in a concentration-heavy task. The second did repetitive tasks that let their minds wonder. The third had a short rest that required no metal activity. Turns out those people who did the repetitive task performed best on a standard creativity test called the Unusual Uses Task.
The study done in the META Lab, which focuses on Memory, Emotion, Thought and Awareness, showed that the increased performance came after the subjects were presented with the problem for a second time. So the brain had to know what the problem was, then be distracted to work through it, to come up with the most creative solutions.
The researchers, led by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler, believe that this “relatively rare” state created by the repetitive task after the presentation of a problem may give several different brain networks the opportunity to interact, enhancing creative thinking.
The next time you have a problem to which you need a creative solution, try my trick: think about the problem for a while, and set a goal for what you want to achieve. Then go do something repetitive to distract your brain. Then sit down and come up with a plan. Let me know how it works for you.
Karen Grandbois is the winner of the Two Pears in a Pod wallet. Karen, drop me an email with your snail mail addy and I’ll pop it in the mail.
Thank you all for your fabulous Lessons Learned. I’ll be sharing them with everyone starting next Tuesday. Tune in, you might learn a lesson or two.