Where does the unique originality we call “creativity” come from? Michelangelo was a stonecutter’s son, and Shakespeare was the son of a middle-class businessman. What causes some people to soar free of their limited lives and make astonishingly creative contributions?
In her elegant, fascinating tour of creativity and the brain, Nancy Andreasen, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and the winner of the National Medal of Science, shows us that creativity is not the same as intelligence nor the same as skill. Rather, we discover, the essence of creativity is to shape the materials of life in new and unexpected ways.
Andreasen explores how the human brain achieves creative breakthroughs—in art, literature, music, and science—the role of patron or mentors, the possession of an omnivorous vision, the value of not having a “standard education,” and the question of “genius and insanity.”
The author shows is what extraordinary creators such as Mozart, Henri Poincaré, and Coleridge, said about creating and how they reflect special qualities of creative people and the creative process. She describes her fascinating interview with the playwright Neil Simon in which he discussed how his mind works. Andreasen’s studies of participants in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop suggest that creativity may be inherited and sometimes associated with mental disorders, through neither is necessary for creativity to flourish.
The author proposes that creativity can and should be encouraged and offers advice to nurture it in both children and adults.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Nature of Creativity: The Ingenious Human Brain
Chapter 2: In Search of Xanadu: Understanding the Creative Person and the Creative Process
Chapter 3: Reaching Xanadu: How Does the Brain Create?
Chapter 4: Genius and Insanity: Creativity and Brain Disease
Chapter 5: What Creates the Creative Brain?
Chapter 6: Building Better Brains: Creativity and Brain Plasticity
"Our leading authority on creativity reveals herself with this splendid book as one of the most valuably creative persons of our time."
"This splendid, quick read should be a compulsory assignment for those students of the humanities who think themselves irrevocably bored with biology of any sort, including what they will find to be the fascinating links to the human brain's most powerful cultural tool, the capacity for extraordinary creativity. . . . I highly recommend it."
-Floyd Bloom, Professor Emeritus of Neuropharmacology, The Scripps Research Institute and former
editor-in-chief of Science
"High intelligence is not at the heart of high creativity. More important to Nancy Andreasen are labile associative cortical regions (neural capacity for free association) that often veer their possessors toward depression or psychosis."
-Nobel laureate James Watson, Chancellor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
On the Nature of Creativity
“We can define and conceptualize creativity in many ways. Boundary issues, such as the distinction between intelligence and creativity, must be considered. Both in popular language and in the historical literature, the terms ‘genius,’ ‘gifted,’ ‘talented,’ and ‘creative’ are often used interchangeably. There are boundary issues with domains as well. Both in popular culture and in research studies, one sometimes senses a presumption that creativity occurs primarily in the arts and humanities—literature, music, dance, or visual arts—with little recognition that creativity is crucial for other fields as well, such as biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth science, and engineering.”
On the Neural Basis of Extraordinary Creativity
“Extraordinary creativity is qualitatively different from ordinary creativity. The underlying neural processes are distinct. They proceed by tapping into the unconscious in ways that possessors of ordinary creativity alone are usually unable to do…Put simply, they are gifted with unusual brains that permit them to see and think in ways that are not accessible to ordinary mortals. This capacity is both a blessing and a curse, for it makes the creative person not only creative but also vulnerable.”