Sunday, March 4, 2012

Building your creative muscles.

         Ever hear of psychoneuromuscular theory? Neither had I. The theory is an attempt to explain how imagery works to facilitate an athlete's performance.

          The theory suggests that when an athlete imagines movements without actually performing them, impulses are occurring in the brain. Then, this "muscle memory" facilitates actual performance when the time comes to use the movements.

          This is an important part of sports psychology, and I have absolutely no reason to believe it has anything to do with marketing and advertising. Yet, I think it might.

           When I finally get around to creating an ad or commercial --- after studying everything I can about the product, the competition, and the market --- my mind seems to shift into another gear. It's sort of the "creative gear", in which different mental muscles seem to come into play.

             I believe there are different "rules" about creating something that's never been done before, and my brain seems to know them by heart by now. I sort of "swim" through ideas and impulses until I spot one that seems to be right. Then I seem to go into third gear, which is executing the idea, also on semi-automatic pilot.

            In fact, I had this theory tested. A psychologist friend of mine is into biofeedback, and he agreed to take a look at my brainwaves. He hooked me up to all the gear attached to a computer, put black goggles on me, and asked me to think about a creative task I had at work. The result: he said I went into a different brain-wave pattern.  He called it an alpha state, one in which the pattern is associated with light sleep, intuition, and meditation. But I wasn't sleeping, and neither was my brain.

           What does all this tell me? For one thing, I believe that when you do creative work a lot, your brain's "muscle memory" puts you in a different place, where performance is more productive and intuitive. At least, in my case.

           That's why I advocate spending a lot of time coming up with creative ideas. Over time, I think you'll develop a mental freeway to them.

           There's no cruise control, though. Be sure to observe all the rules of the road.

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