If you're waiting for that creative light bulb to suddenly switch on in your head, forget it. It doesn't work that way. Well, not as a rule or on a consistent basis, anyway. We may have thought that the great, early 20-th century American inventor, Thomas Edison, was just being modest when he said that his secret to coming up with new ideas involved "one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Well, as it turns out, the guy wasn't being modest, but being perfectly honest and precise, as research on the subject of human creativity over the past thirty years or so in the fields of psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, and anthropology all seem to point to the conclusion that creativity indeed takes a lot of hard work and that new ideas really don't come to us out of the blue in a magical flash of genius. Although we do experience that "Aha!" moment when everything seems to click into place in our minds, scientists now explain that our brains actually do a lot of conscious as well as subconscious hard lifting before getting to that light bulb moment. That's because contrary to popular belief, creative thinking does not involved a different mental process, as our brain uses the same mental building block used in everyday, ordinary routine thinking. Neuroscientists, through the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI), have in reality determined that the brain uses the same neutral connection for both perception and imagination, inextricably connecting the two functions. And there lies the problem for most of us. "A Lazy Piece of Meat?" because our brains use the same neural circuits for both perception and imagination, what we are able to picture on our minds is essentially limited to what we have experienced or perceived, making it extremely difficult to visualize anything novel. Scientists have also come to realize that perception is not simply our eyes and ears telling our brain what they see and hear; perception is essentially the interpretation of outside stimuli and, therefore, a product of the brain itself, and the latter, in order to conserve energy, tends to take shortcuts. The brain is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat. It doesn't want to waste energy, that is why there is a striking lack of imagination in most people's visualization of (for example) a sunset at the bay. It's an iconic image, so your brain simply takes the path of least resistance and rectivates neurons that have been optimized to process this sort of scene. "Chain of Tiny Sparks" So, unless your brain is wired like Einstein was, creativity take a lot of hard work. Big ideas don't come just by themselves; they are products of smaller, sometimes seemingly unrelated ideas or solutions that we consciously or subconsciously put together with the help of other ideas or stimuli. Creativity happens not with one brilliant flash but in a chain reaction of many tiny sparks while executing and idea, so the more ideas you have and accumulate, the better your chances of coming up with a good and bigger one. Bad Ideas are Good Too Studying and diaries, manuscripts, notebooks, and other historical records of famously creative people like Charles Darwin, Jackson pollock and the Wright brothers and other researchers were able to demonstrate that highly creative people not only work hard for their innovative ideas, they also have lots of ideas to work with, many of them bad. From all the historical research, it would seem that creativity also involves thrashing through and eliminating lots of bad ideas before we arrive at one that actually works, while often ending up with a few dead ends as well along the way. There's no getting around it; that's how it works for everybody, certified geniuses included. Edison conducted literally thousands of tests and experiments on all kinds of rare and exotic fibers from all over the world before discovering the perfect formula for his light bulb. Charles Darwin came to numerous dead ends before perfecting his theory of evolution, spending years refining one bizarre idea after another before eventually discarding them. They were bad ideas in and of themselves, but scientists point out that they were critical to the creative process that led to the invention of the first working incandescent light bulb as well as the formulating the theory of evolution. Myth of the Lone Genius Researchers also stress that even for sup-er geniuses like Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein, all ideas, no matter how earth-shakingly radical they seem to be, don't magically appear out of nowhere; they are always built on ideas that came before. Einstein himself acknowledged that his theory of relativity was a mere "continuation" of the anti- Newtonian views of Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, who is more famous for inventing the Mach number used today to measure supersonic flight. Anecdotal evidence has also revealed that novelists C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) and J.R.R Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) bounced ideas off each other as well as with other writer-friends who were members of an informal Oxford University cicle called "the Inklings." In this sense, no idea is truly original; we can improve, build on, or modify or combine ones that already been thought of. Creativity Tips Creativity is not just for artists or inventors; it's important for all of us to have some measure of it in order to solve business and school problems or even how we decorate out hones, for example, We use creativity ( such as in figuring out the best route to avoid a heavy traffic) every day without even realizing it. Anything that we do out of the everyday or ordinary routine is in itself creative. Is it possible then, for us regular Joes, to hone our creative sharpness? What can we non-geniuses do to, as they say, get the creative juices flowing. Here are some tips to get that creative juices flowing: 1. Take Risks Don't be afraid to try new ideas, no matter how dumb or far-out they may seem, and expect to make lots of mistakes. Remember that from Darwin's experience, bad ideas led to good ones; failure to succeed. Besides, the alternative is not trying anything at all. 2. It's a number game, meaning the more ideas you try out, the better the odds of coming up with something that works. Remember the thousands of times that Edison went back to "the old drawing board" before finally inventing a light bulb that worked. 3. If creativity is required in your chosen profession, be sure to love what it is that you do, because major creative breakthroughs take years of serious hard work. Bear in mind that it took years and years for Michael Angelo to develop the style that he is known for. As they say, artists all have to first "pay their dues." 4. Work hard, but take frequent breaks. Your brain is still working on the problem even when you're not thinking about it. "Eureka!" moments come when we disengage ourselves from a problem and change what we're doing and our context, allowing for the activation of other parts of our brain where the answer can sometimes be found. 5. Develop a network of colleagues and share ideas through unstructured, informal discussions. 6. Try to learn everything that's been done in your field, take a look at what others are doing, collaborate with them if possible, and keep observant of the developments. The more ideas you have on file in your brain, the more potential "tiny spark" there are to draw form. 7. Change your perspective Creativity requires that you look at things differently. Sometimes, working somewhere else other than your work station help give our brains a jumpstart. But perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn from all the scientific research so far is that creativity is indeed hard work and not being artsy or gifted and believing in the romantic notion that things will suddenly come to us in a flash of insight. Waiting for that one great moment of creative inspiration only serves to waste time, and chances are, if things don't come to us soon enough, we get discouraged and decide to forget about the whole thing. Imagine then what useful, beautiful, worthwhile or even mind-boggling thing we may have ended creating nothing.