When we participate in creative processes we can explore countless numbers of possible patterns before finally settling on an idea. Many of us, however, encounter emotional resistance to the flow of creative possibilities. We demand of our minds an immediate, logical, finished product that stifles new creative exploration. Most of us do not lack ideas. What we lack is a rapid and direct means of getting in touch with those ideas. Is there a magic key for unlocking those secret reservoirs of imaginative power?
One magic key describe by Gabriele Rico is a creative process called CLUSTERING. A similar process using patterns is termed “mind mapping” by Tony Buzan. Both techniques use the right brain’s ability to image and synthesize. Clustering, or “mind mapping,” temporarily suspends the normally dominant left brain activity that is logical and orderly.
It is a non-linear brain-storming process akin to free association. Invisible ideas become visible, flashing out in lightning-like associations that allow new patterns of ideas to emerge.
Initially, thinkers accustomed to a logical, step-by-step approach find clustering unsettling. A frequently made remark is, “This is crazy. Where is this taking me?” With experience, however, most thinkers eventually discover that they can explore creative ideas without first knowing the “who, what, where, why, and when.” They find that creative exploration is a practical, exciting, and ultimately inspiring adventure.
In one Rose+Croix University class students were introduced to the clustering process. The students drew a circle in the center of a clean page. In this circle they placed a “seed” or “nuclear” idea. Then they opened themselves to any thoughts, ideas, images, feelings, or emotion that this “seed” evoked.
Ideas associated with “ letting go” made a splash in the students’ minds and were quickly jotted down on the paper and circled, with the circled ideas radiating outward from the “seed” idea like ripples in a pool. Some associations triggered other associations, and new circles radiated out from the secondary ideas. These secondary ideas often spread to yet other associations in a continuous, rapidly expanding ripple effect.
FROM ONE IDEA TO ANOTHER
In clustering, each association leads inevitably to the next with a connection of its own even though the analytical left brain does not perceive the logic. These sudden subconscious associations make the connections that create the marvelous complexity of images and their rich emotional qualities. When captured on paper these associations either suddenly or gradually reveals new patterns and meanings arising from seeming chaos.
Northrop Frye, the literary critic, observed any principle or idea can become “a storm center of meanings, sounds and associations radiating out indefinitely like ripples in a pool.” Students find that clustering is rapid –the process taking only from two to four minutes to reach new patterns, meanings, and insights.
After the insight arises the student writes a brief vignette, a thumbnail sketch or cameo, of the insight. Writing the vignette which expresses the insight is also rapid, often taking another five to ten minutes. As Fry suggests, clustering is like a thunderstorm: from the gathering of the clouds with the first ideas, to the clusters falling like a cloudburst, the lightening-flash insights, the clearing blue sky of the vignette, and rainbow of the accomplishment –all in perhaps only fifteen minutes. The results are often surprising, sometimes even awesome. A frequent comment is “It simply wrote itself!”
While human nature resists the unfamiliar and unconventional, once this resistance to using the clustering approach is overcome, people find this creative exploration of ideas exciting and surprisingly productive. Students use the process to take essay exams; businessmen and engineers for writing memos and reports; writers for developing ideas –the applications are limitless.
The process reveals that each of us possesses latent creative genius –genius awaiting our release. Clustering can be a magic key for releasing our imaginative powers within.
BRAIN VITALITY AND CREATIVE POWER
The brain’s vitality can remain intact throughout our lives, as long as we keep exercising it,” states the Vancouver Sun newspaper. “Read, read, read,” says Dr. Amir Soas of Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Ohio, U.S.A. To retain brainpower as you age, choose mentally challenging hobbies, study a new language, and learn to play a musical instrument, or engage in stimulating conversations.
“Anything that stimulates the brain to think,” says Dr. Soas. He also encourages cutting back TV. “When you watch television, your brain goes into neutral,” he says. The Sun adds that a healthy brain also needs oxygen pumped through healthy arteries. Thus, exercise and proper diet, the same things that help to prevent heart disease and diabetes, also help the brain.