Jonah Lehrer has written a good article explaining Bob Dylan’s creativity from findings in neuroscience. The main points are:

  • Creativity begins with trying to solve a problem using conscious analysis (brain’s right hemisphere).
  • Becoming frustrated triggers a subconscious approach (brain’s left side) that “explore[s] a more unexpected set of associations.”

Both processes have their purposes, and the subconscious approach needs the foundation of the conscious, analytic approach before kicking in.

In applying this understanding to the teaching of writing, much of learning to write is rather mechanical, needing only an analytical approach. However, in teaching how to acquire new perspectives on complex issues, an understanding of how creativity arises should be helpful.