The Neuroscience of Bob Dylan’s Creative Genius

The Guardian published a great extract from a new book by Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works, about the science behindImagine: How Creativity Works flashes of inspiration:

It took a few days to adjust to the quiet of Woodstock. Dylan was suddenly alone with nothing but an empty notebook. And there was no need to fill this notebook – Dylan had been relieved of his creative burden. But then, just when Dylan was most determined to stop creating music, he was overcome with a strange feeling. “It’s a hard thing to describe,” Dylan would later remember. “It’s just this sense that you got something to say.” 

The first thing they discovered was that, although it seemed that the insight answer appeared out of nowhere, the brain had been laying the groundwork for the breakthrough. The process began with an intense mental search as the left hemisphere started looking for answers in all the obvious places. … This left-brain thought process, however, quickly got tiring – it took only a few seconds before the subject said he’d reached an impasse and couldn’t think of the right word. But these negative feelings are actually an essential part of the process because they signal that it’s time to try a new search strategy. Instead of relying on the literal associations of the left hemisphere, the brain needs to shift activity to the other side, to explore a more unexpected set of associations.

What’s surprising is that this mental shift often works. Because we feel frustrated, we start to look at problems from a new perspective.

Read the full article here.


Author Disclosure: Huge Dylan fan

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