Sign In
User Name:
Forgot your password?

Not a member?
Judy Carter
Getting Found
Get Seen

Deliberate or Spontaneous Creativity

It is starting to amaze me how all my reading materials are crossing paths and starting to support each other theory, this is better than anything I have done is school. Here’s the meeting of the minds as you would say:

In “The War of Art” : After he writes for about 4 hrs he takes a hike in the woods, and during that hike corrections and ideas would come to him. He would carry a voice recorder to take notes of the great feedback. (Things like: the opening line on page 158 is to much like the one on 456… Change the word X to Y… and so on.) He calls it his “Angels in the Abstract”, or refers to it as our minds super computer going through a background process, crunching information.

In the book “Talent is Over Rated” it referred to how practicing something that you find the most difficult / uncomfortable out of the desired "skill set" that your focused on learning. Going over it “over and over” with a deliberate focused on the things your least able to comprehend.  You need to amerce yourself in the information and work on the part that you least comprehend you will increase your skill set over all. It’s called Deliberate Practice.

Yet another book I al working through is “The Talent Code” and this is also about the way training in a very particular way will get you to learn better and create strong pathways in the brain for better thought processing. This is called “Deep Practice”.

Example: Let’s say you’re at a party and you see someone you know but you can not remember their name… if someone tells you their name you learn nothing, but if you figure it out and correctly retrieve that information you just worked or engraved into your memory and you practiced finding that name deeper.

The current book I am reading is called “Your Creative Brain” and again this process comes up as the concept of Deliberate and Spontaneous paths of creativity. The two use different parts of the brain:

The Deliberate Processes like problem solving, retrieving knowledge, and making plans are the so called “higher order thinking” that is the Lateral areas of the Prefrontal Cortex. Remember I talked about the “CEO or the Executive” calling the shots in the brain, that what this area is… looking for facts and making decisions.

The Spontaneous Process the areas of the brain that are used/activated are the Medial (middle) Prefrontal Cortex and other midline areas in the frontal and parietal lobes as well as areas in the rear of the brain. These are areas also associated when you are daydreaming. But most important these are the areas now associated with things like spontaneous thought and imagination, reverie and envisioning the future.

When you create you do something no one has ever done before, because it’s never been done there is no rule books for how to proceed. You have to forge ahead, blaze new trails, stepping onto the edge of chaos and look over the edge to infinity… well sort of there are some rules we can learn from. And lucky for us written accounts of creative processes have been notes since the early Greeks.

Here is a great example of  how all of the above come together back in the day.  There was this dude called Archimedes and he was given the task to find out the volume of gold in an intricate crown for this King Hiero, who was having some trust issues with his jewelers.

Archimedes was racking his brain over the issue trying to figure it out for some time and decided he needed a break, so I went to the baths and as he was getting into the water he noticed the water was splashing out of the tub, more and more as he submerged himself and it hit him. Eureka! Without even thinking he ran to his down the street buck naked trying to get to his pad to prove his hypothesis. The volume of an irregular shape can be calculated by noting the amount of water displaced when the object was submerged…

See how that works… Here is a doodle from the book I took a snapshot of.

Preparation Stage is made up of 4 main components:

1) Gathering General Knowledge

Sense the basic premise of creative ideas is that they are original and useful combinations of recombinations of desperate bits of information. Then is stands to reason that the more stuff you know the more creative you can be. “I had an improv teach Amie who told us that to be great at improve we have to have as many interests out side of improve as we can, that will give us more fuel to use in improve.“

No one else had the mental library that you have; this is what makes us all unique you have stuffed in your brain every memory from how to hold a spoon to quantum theory. So the more you know the more you want to know.

2) Acquiring Specific Skills and Information

So here you need to acquire the skills specific to the endeavor you looking to take on, in my case I want to be better at public speaking, writing joke, speeches and motivation.

So if you want to paint you need to learn about color theory, brushes, how to spread paint on a canvas, what colors are used in shadow, how to draw using perspective and so on. So you need to learn about what has been done before, experts call this “Learning your Domain” Learning all you can about your specific endeavor not only will this generate even more interests for you it will also help you with the next step.

3)Problem Finding

This is the search or – a definition of--- a problem or dilemma that can be solved with a creative idea. This is another way of saying finding new ways that things can be done or done differently. Seurat was a painter but painted with Dots not Strokes.

4) Problem Immersion

You consider the problem or dilemma from many angles, every aspect, turning it over and over in your mind and attempt to generate potential solutions. You marry yourself to the problem, temporary obsession.


Let it go, go rest, turn your attention else wear, go for a walk in the park/woods. This is called incubation stage because you can stare at an egg each day for several weeks but not be aware of the chick developing inside. So now you can send the dilemma you have been thinking so much about to the back burner also knowing that it too is developing out of site like that egg. This is the point where the Deliberate and the Spontaneous paths to creativity diverge.

If you are deliberately trying to solve the problem you will resist the incubation and continue to search for a solution for the problem…That Executive section of the brain active the whole time…You will consciously go over memories and information from the back of your brain until you find a suitable solution.

If you take the spontaneous rout you will notice that taking a break from creative problem solving will have some beneficial effects, like recovery from mental fatigue or recharging your mental batteries. Say that one of the issues you were having was that the wrong answer kept popping up; this break will help you forget about that answer you have become fixated on.

Finally the incubation period will allow you to focus on your environment. Just like Archimedes noticed the water overflow in the baths. You too may see something that can trigger a “Eureka!” moment.


If your spontaneously problem solving, your executive center now needs to delegate the work and the solution will spontaneously spring into consciousness when you least expect it. Some call this illumination, some call this insight the Greeks called this inspiration… this is what “War of art “calls angels in the abstract or the muse. Some call it creative genius… but let’s just make sure you realize, you worked hard for this in the first place.


Once your creative solution is here now the real work begins…The verification stage and that has 3 steps: Evaluation, Elaboration, and Implementation.

Not all creative solutions are good for your particular problem. Now you need to see if it’s worth pursuing, you need to look at its strengths and weaknesses. If it’s a keeper you move forward. If its not going to work you start over from the Problem Immersion.

If you like your idea, next comes elaboration you flesh it out… like if your are writing a short story and you have an idea for the plot you can then fill in the story details in this step. At the end of the elaboration stage you should have a finished product.

And the last step implementation, that’s getting your work out there, like for a comedian or speaker like me that is shopping it at open mikes and offering to do speeches for meetings and stuff. If you don’t get it out there is will end up just being some unused work you have laying around gathering dust.

Side note to add to your learning:

I am also reading the book “Spark” and one of the things that is talk a lot about is how cardio vascular exercise helps grow new brain cells as well as releases all kinds of great chemicals for the brain and that after a vigorous half hour of physical activity your brain is primed to learn something. (Note, your brain is not very good at learning and retaining information why you’re on the tread mill, most brain activity is on vital body functions and stuff.) But the part where this comes in is after your work out, if you work on a complex task you brain is able to learn that and build stronger path ways as your learning. This is prime time, you’re a sponge and you need to take advantage of that time. So think of it this way, when you are going to rehearse your set or write you jokes, do it after a good hard 30 min cardio work out and you will be better for it.


Comments are closed.