David Kirkpatrick

February 16, 2009

Creativity in action

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:09 pm

Here’s a very cool bit on whether creativity makes you happy.

I love this description here. I’ve been there writing fiction at times.

Early in the talk, Csikszentmihalyi presents us with the following description by a leading composer, of his experience while composing music:

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.

This sounds like a mystical experience, yet Csikszentmihalyi offers a scientific explanation. Apparently our nervous system can only process about 110 bits of information per second. Listening to someone speak takes up about 60 bits of neurological ‘bandwidth’, which explains why we can’t listen to more than one person at a time. Because the composer is concentrating so hard on his music, he is using all his available bandwidth and there’s none left over to monitor his sense of self:

when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new – as this man does – he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired, his body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration and at the same time to feel that he exists.

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