Welcome to Your Creative Blog!

Hi Everyone…and welcome to Your Creative Blog!

I’d like us to use this space to share ideas, news, and information related to how creativity (our own creativity and that of others) impacts and enhances our lives. I’d also like to share tips on ways to increase your own enjoyment and effectiveness through creative activity and thought.

By way of explaining why I think that tending to your creative side is so vital to a fulfilling life, I’d like to share some of the points I usually make in the opening lecture of my Harvard course Creativity: Madmen, Geniuses, and Harvard Students.*

First, creativity is our survival mechanism as a species. Our ancestors were not strong enough to fight off potential predators (think saber-tooth tigers!) with their hands, nor were they fast enough to outrun predators, nor were they equipped with shaggy fur coats to protect them from the elements. The only way they survived was through creative efforts that allowed them to conceive of and build tools to defend themselves and shelters to protect themselves.

Second, creativity is our long-distance communication mechanism. Creativity allows us to communicate with each other across centuries, across continents, and across ideologies to share the human experience. Through symbolic forms such as art, music, poetry, and drama, we can pass on those lessons we have learned that are meaningful to our fellow humans in other places and in other times yet to come.

Third, creativity enriches our lives. The creativity of others has provided us with modern comforts from air conditioners and computers to penicillin and Prozac. Art has filled our lives with beauty, and music has motivated and uplifted us. Creativity has brought us new forms of government, economic systems, architecture, and cuisine. Our lives are so much richer and fuller because of the creative contributions of those who have gone before us.

You also benefit from your own creative acts. Every time you speak, you exercise your creativity by putting words together in novel ways to impart meaning to others. Every time you solve a minor problem in your life without using an instruction manual, every time you plant a garden or rearrange your furniture, or add a touch of some new ingredient to a meal, you are enhancing your life with creativity. If you play a musical instrument or write in a journal or use a box to prop a door open, you are exercising your innate ability to be creative.

Think about just how powerful the ability to be creative is!

Whether or not you think of yourself as creative let me assure you that you ARE creative! What I’d like you to do – right now – is think of at least one creative thing you’ve done so far today. (The truth is that every day you perform hundreds of creative acts.) You may have taken a different route to work. You may have combed your hair differently, or added Tabasco sauce instead of ketchup to your eggs this morning (I put Tabasco on everything except ice cream!). You may have arranged a bouquet of flowers or found the right thing to say to assuage a child’s hurt feelings. Or you may have written chapter 11 of your novel or the final measures of your latest concerto. Creativity, after all, comes in many sizes.

When you consider every act as a potential opportunity to be creative, it changes the way you think. If you feel like sharing some creative thing you did today with us, please comment to this blog.

Next time, we’ll talk about how we can define creativity and whether we can measure it. In the meantime, remember that you can increase richness and fulfillment in your daily life just by thinking of each action as an opportunity to express your innate creativity.

*This course is now being offered by Harvard as a distance option, meaning you can take it from any corner of the world online! And it’s actually not too late to sign up for this fall’s course. You can find out more about taking this course and others from the Harvard Extension School at http://www.extension.harvard.edu/.

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  • Cash434

    The creative thing I did today was to examine and enjoy ALL the links on your website.

    I looked at every one of your suggestions. I even tried to take the Quiz. I couldn’t answer some of the questions due to a technical issue – the pictures are missing from the PDF and the link at the bottom takes me to the Forbidden. (Taboo peaks my novelty seeking interest! I want to go to it even more!)

    It’s a great website and I just have to be the first one to post here! It’s like cutting the ribbon. Kilroy was here.

  • Cash434

    It’s the three red “READ MORE” text hyperlinks that are broken at the bottom in the blue section. It’s just a matter of assigning them to the right page.

    If you ever need a rat to navigate a maze – I’d be good for that. I squeek loudly and protest greatly when I see washed out bridges and dead ends. It’s my warped way of helping to make it better.

    Is there a creative mindset for a supersized mini mouse?

  • Dr. Shelley Carson

    Thanks for your comments! My publicity guy will be “fixing” things this week.

    Shelley H. Carson, PhD
    Department of Psychology
    Harvard University
    33 Kirkland Street
    Cambridge, MA 02138

    Senior Subject Matter Expert
    Department of Defense
    Population & Prevention Programs |P3|
    National Center for Telehealth and Technology |T2|

  • Margoc

    Amen! I work with people with chronic conditions. After many years of trying one thing and another, I discovered that people responded the best if I gave them an opportunity to do some form of art, whether it was coloring a mandala, creating a sand painting, listening to music or writing a journal. In short, when hands are at work, the heart is wide open. We’ve taught more people how to advocate for themselves over an art table than any other strategy we’ve tried. Long story short is that every Wednesday on my blog Healing Whole http://www.healingwhole.blogspot.com is “Take a Break Day.” This includes a wide variety of creative projects. For the month of October, each Wednesday is dedicated to things to make and do relating to Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).


  • Dr. S

    Excellent, Margo. Creative activity can indeed relieve stress, including the stress of a chronic condition. Keep up the good work!

  • Christine


    What is the name of the distance option course on creativity at Harvard? How would I access it?

    Christine O’Brien

  • Dr. Shelley

    Hi Christine,
    The course is name Creativity: Madmen, Geniuses, and Harvard Students. The course number is Psy E-1704, and you can read more about it on the Harvarrd Extension School website at http://www.extension.harvard.edu/ under Courses.

  • http://www.sunbearsquad.org Anna

    Shelley, you wrote “When you consider every act as a potential opportunity to be creative, it changes the way you think.” For some of us, this is a foundation of our daily behavior. We experiment with routines, we find little ways to innovate, and for some of us, we channel this energy into a focus on making the world a better place. I see the result of creativity as the potential to be a change agent. It’s a challenge every day that I try to live up to.

  • Dr. S

    Hi Anna,
    Bravo! Your attitude toward experimenting with daily routines and working to make the world a better place through small creative innovations is so admirable! Keep up the good work and spread the word about how creativity in small places can add up to changing the world!

  • Michael Price

    I teach B+W and digital photography, and would like to include material about creativity. It’s a big topic. Can you suggest a starting point?

  • Gail Zeserman

    It was great hearing you on NPR today.

    Have you done any research on the power of food and certain diets to help anxiety, distraction, inability to follow-through, etc.? I have personally found that certain foods do help ease anxiety, but certainly foods also contribute to it…especially allergens such as gluten, dairy and eggs (for me)

    The idea of rewarding myself for finishing a project immediately felt good. I look forward to reading your book and learning more. Thank you. Gail Zeserman

  • BKobar

    Thank you , I really enjoyed hearing you on
    NPR today, can’t wait to get your book.
    Hearing you today inspired me to be more
    creative in my daily life.
    This is my very first reply to a Blog.

    Best regards,
    Bob K.
    The Ice Wizard

  • Karen S.

    I heard your interview on NPR and came home and immediately bought and downloaded your book on my Nook. I cannot wait to apply the principals to my life and to my photography. Stay tuned…

  • Dr. Shelley

    Thank you, Karen! Hope you enjoy the book and please write back with your comments on it!

  • Dr.S

    Hi Bob,
    Hope this will be the first of many blog replies from you!
    Let us know what you like (and don’t like) about the book when you’ve finished it!

  • Shcarson

    Thank you, Gail!
    While the contribution of foods and nutrients to the creative brain is somewhat personal, there is one thing that everyone needs and that’s foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. The best source for this nutrient is deep water fish. (You can also get it from flax). However, if you don’t like fish, you can get supplements to provide the omega 3 that you need for good brain functioning.

  • Shcarson

    Hi Michael,
    The most basic aspects of creativity to include would be some information on the creative process (see chapter 4 of Your Creative Brain), on openness to experience (see chapter 5) and on divergent thinking (see chapter 7).


    I listened to you on WHYY a few days ago. All i can say s KISMET! I am an improviser-actor in Philadelphia and perform a unique 2 person improv show (Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical…) that makes the audience the focus of the show. What we have been learning from our performances is that we are teaching adults how to play. The concept of play and playing as adults is fast becoming an obsession. I have added you to my reading list along with Dr. Stuart Brown’s ‘PLAY” and Patsy Rodenburg’s ‘The Second Circle’ I would love the opportunity to share more the show with you if you have any interest. Finally, your comment about divergent thinking and the difficulty creative folks sometimes have with standardized testing might well have been my personal biography. I’ve always been an A student but SAT’s and the like made it appear as though I was fairly feeble academically – even the Brainsrts quiz on thsi sight was a slight challenge for me!. Thanks for your work!

  • Patrick

    Hi Shelley,
    I have a BFA from Art Center College of Design and an MBA from UC Irvine. I have been a professional illustrator and designer for 19 years and now teach in the advertising department at at local college. I compose and record music as a hobby. I heard you speak on NPR on two occasions and was very intrigued to learn more and subsequently bought your book. My question is this: the points possible on the CREATES Brainsets Assessment for each category vary considerably. I.e, there are only 2 points possible in the St category and 20 in the R category. Obviously the highest point total you could get in the St category is 2. The probability of this being someone’s highest point total are slim. To look at the point totals tells one story, but if one takes a percentage of the total possible points in each category, a different story appears. Is there a reason why the points possible are not equal in each category? Interestingly I found that taking the percentage described me more accurately (bias/delusion?). Could you speak to this point please? Thank you.

  • Dr. S

    This is a great question, Patrick! You are correct that the number of possible points varies from brainset to brainset on the quiz. Because Stream is more-or-less a performance mode requiring some motor output, it isn’t usually a default brain state. Also, the quiz on the website does favor some of the brainsets that I have found are most representative of either the deliberate or the spontaneous creative pathways. If you take the full quiz from the book, you may find that it more accurately reflects your view of mental comfort zone. I’m interested in hearing what you found when you used percentages and how you calculated them. Please share more!

  • Dr. S

    This is a great question, Patrick! You are correct that the number of possible points varies from brainset to brainset on the quiz. Because Stream is more-or-less a performance mode requiring some motor output, it isn’t usually a default brain state. Also, the quiz on the website does favor some of the brainsets that I have found are most representative of either the deliberate or the spontaneous creative pathways. If you take the full quiz from the book, you may find that it more accurately reflects your view of mental comfort zone. I’m interested in hearing what you found when you used percentages and how you calculated them. Please share more!

  • Dr. S

    Kelly, please share more about your show. It sounds like fun! You can respond here on the blog or write to me in the Contact area.

  • Mei

    Hi Dr. Carson,
    I attended your recent presentation at Regent University. I’m an undergrad psych student at Regent, and last year I conducted a study correlating scores on the Dissociative Experiences Scale and DES taxon with CAQ domain scores. I found that higher taxon scores correlated most with the domains of visual arts and inventions, and correlated the least to humor and dance. To my knowledge, no research has been conducted with this test combination, or even specifically examining the relationship between dissociation and creativity. I’m wondering if you have any comments about these results or suggestions for further research.

  • http://twitter.com/Enginethatcan Kelly Cash

    Dr. Carson! Dr. Carson! Dr. Carson! You just gotta see this! Mathew Taylor draws a cognitive map illustrating and explaining the meaning of 21st Century Enlightment. It’s visual and easy to remember! You just gotta see it! Promise me you will watch this! It ties in with your globalization problems of the 21st century! You just gotta see it!

  • http://twitter.com/Enginethatcan Kelly Cash

    Dr. Carson! Dr. Carson! Dr. Carson! You just gotta see this TOO! Mathew Taylor draws Sir Ken Robinson’s cognitive map illustrating “Changing Education Paradigms” You just gotta see it! I liked the “colloboration” vs “copy” part especially (in regard to the plagiarism concept!) :-) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=channel

  • http://twitter.com/Enginethatcan Kelly Cash

    Dr. Carson! Dr. Carson! Dr. Carson! I HIT THE JACKPOT! DING DING DING! ==> RSA Animate! The surprising truth about what motivates us! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&feature=channel

  • http://twitter.com/Enginethatcan Kelly Cash

    Where Good Ideas Come from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU&feature=related – Another RSA Animate. Dr. Carson! Mathew Taylor could draw a cognitive map of your Book Presentation for the WWW!

  • http://twitter.com/Enginethatcan Kelly Cash

    Your Resilience Course at Harvard does not have an online option. I would love to take that course ONLINE. Would you consider getting that one put online? I could use it MORE than the Madmen course in the present climate. The present climate has turned me MAD and I need RESILIENCE to counter the effects! :-)

  • Cash434

    I think I need to cut back on my Absorb dose. Too much Absorb leads to the Stream aka flow aka the mythic river aka the Odic Force aka the Heart of Gaia. I think gamma is the frequency not alpha or beta! In the Stream it’s like swimming with the flying fishes! Awesome feeling! Time doesn’t exist there!

  • Cash434

    Evidence for Gamma

    Tuning the brain for novelty detection under emotional threat: The role of increasing gamma phase-synchronization

    Manuel Garcia-Garciaa, b, Juliana Yordanovac, Vasil Kolevc, Judith Domínguez-Borràsa, b and Carles Escera

  • gardenwriter

    Dr. Carson, I learned about your book on the Jungle Red blog and am so grateful to Jan Brogan for introducing you and the book. I’m working on the exercises now and finding them so useful. I live near Boston and if you’re ever looking for research subjects, I’d be interested!+

  • Alfredo Zotti

    It is good to study and promote creativity. However, there are certain aspects of the creative process that remain a mystery. I wrote the poem that I attach here in 5 minutes without thinking and later found that it has a very deep meaning. This is really fascinating to me, that is to write from the subconscious. But it is also fascinating because my first language is Italian and yet I have been able to express myself poetically with little problems which also has a lot to do with my creativity I feel:

    The Forgotten People: written by the Light of the Pale Moon.

    The forgotten people
    with nowhere to hide;
    dreamers of dreams
    on whom the pale moon shimmers.

    They transform the world;
    being one with dreams,
    one with love
    one with art.

    Ages come and ages go,
    this the forgotten people know:
    each age has a dream dying,
    one that is rising to birth.

    Sitting and watching
    each age with its dream
    one passing, one emerging
    as the pale moon shimmers

  • Alfredo Zotti

    There is no doubt that Mathew Taylor is a very gifted person. As far as his conclusion that a small group of wise and creative people can change the world I have my doubts. It is simply too late. But there are many other worlds out there and I believe that our soul keeps on living when we die and it is more than likely that we will visit some of these wonderful worlds. The poem that I have written a while ago, and which I have included in the post below, is quite deep but I did not know its purpose until I found this site and Mathew Taylor map of the 21 century Enlightenment. I realiseed then that the poem is an answer to his conclusion.

  • Alfredo Zotti

    The Transform chapter of Dr Carson’s book is of particular interesting to me. I do transform my suffering, which mostly derives from suffering with bipolar II, into creative objects.
    I have my own understanding of how this transformation occurs in my personal experience with depression. I start from the idea that humans grow through suffering. When we suffer we can either let the suffering stump our lives by saying: Why me? What have I done to deserve this? Or we can sort of lick our wounds and let the suffering out through the creative process.
    In my personal research I have identified two kinds of suffering, and I add that for me what we call mental illness is mostly suffering not an illness. I call it “Anguish” “Mental Anguish” to be precise.
    These two distinct kinds of suffering are: Traumatic Anguish since from my personal research I have found that the majority of psychological disorders have been triggered by traumatic experiences. For example some people have a genetic predisposition for the acquisition of a psychological disorder. However, if the person leads a happy life in an ideal environment chances are that they will not develop symptoms; conversely a child with a predisposition will almost always develop symptom after having experienced trauma. In the case where there is no genetic predisposition the child or person may not develop symptoms but not necessarily in all cases. Even those without a genetic predisposition can develop symptoms after traumatic experiences. It all depends from the resilience break point of a person.
    Creative Anguish is different from Traumatic Anguish in that Traumatic Anguish is almost impossible to control and it is in these cases that psychiatric medication is essential especially if the sufferer hasn’t had a chance to develop skills to cope and to identify triggers for episodes of symptoms. With education, good nutrition, avoidance of alcohol and drugs, adequate sleep or sleeping patterns, and a sound environment and the ability to engage in creative exercises the Traumatic Anguish is “transformed” into Creative Anguish. The Creative Anguish differ from the Traumatic Anguish because Creative Anguish can be transformed into a creative life which is also a very powerful and healing existence. The Creative life is a life of constant search for the truth because…as a great artist and a good friend Dr Garry Jones wrote to me in an email:
    “we, each and every one of us, while mortal and thus imperfect, ought seek perfection anyway. That any individual’s concept of perfection is undoubtedly unattainable in this realm need not impede that search. For in so searching can we, at the very least, improve on what we are as human beings; and thus may we leave this world a better place than it might otherwise have been.”
    I think that Dr Carson has written a powerful book and her transformation Chapter is timely.
    On a sad note I know from personal research that without substantial knowledge the transformation from Traumatic Anguish to Creative Anguish, and consequently the ability to transform our suffering into creativity and wisdom, cannot happen. I am sad to say that many people who suffer with a psychological disorder have been excluded from society because of stigma and this is something that we must always consider. Many University have closed their doors to many good students who for no fault of their own may have behaved inadequately or experienced problems while at University. My personal research is also a collection of stories of students who have failed or have been excluded because of suffering with a psychological disorder.
    Stigma is terrible and one of the major contributors to stigma is the idea that people with psychological disorders are violent or dangerous. Statistically speaking this is not true it is a myth. It is alcohol and drugs which cause violence not psychological disorders alone.
    I could go on and on and I don’t have the space here to cover everything. But I thank Dr Carson for her wonderful work which shows that she is no ordinary academic. I can sense, by reading her book which I just bought today, that she has a heart and cares deeply about people. This is what distinguishes an outstanding academic from an average one.
    In my research emotions are important although, as many of us know, emotions are feared and kept at a distance in the academia generally speaking. For me Emotions are very important and it is Emotions that I welcome in my studies for I found out that I learn a lot by integrating emotional experiences of sufferers with scientific research. Indeed the secret is to use knowledge and science and somehow integrate these with our experiences, feeling and emotions. But to conclude I thank Dr Carson Again for her wonderful book. Creativity is a way of life. It is the road less taken but one that may lead us to a better world.

  • Alfredo Zotti

    As a multi talented artist I feel that we tend to study creativity in terms of brain functions. I feel that the human heart, in many ways, is far superior to the brain. The heart can live outside of the human body for up to 16 hours. It is also a well documented fact that many heart recipients often take on the personality of their donor. For example, someone who has absolutely no ability to draw, can sometime become an accomplished artist after heart transplant. This would tend to indicate that creativity has more to do with the heart and the magnetic field in connection with consciousness than the actual brain. The reason why academics don’t venture in this territory is because it is very difficult to study the heart. This would require t a kind of revolutionary thought that would disturb the currents of the academia.

    I have studied that human heart for a very long time and I feel that it is the heart which is in communication with consciousness and that this communication is sent to the brain. THe heart, I believe, is the truly intelligent organ not the brain.

    This argument is one that is not well accepted by academics, I am aware of this fact. Yet because I have multiple synesthesia, I KNOW THAT MY HEART IS INVOLVED IN THE THINKING PROCESS.

    It would be nice if the academia paid more attention to the possibility that we need to study the heart not just the brain and that fMRI scan are only part of the tools in the understanding of creativity.

    There is a lot of focus on things like the links between creativity and dishonesty. There is little about the fact that the true creative gifted artists not only produce artworks that have meaning but they also express their concern for their world through their creative products.

    I think that it is early days but that eventually we will come to realize that the heart is the organ that we need to study. We need to look at emotions and feelings. Of course, this is just my opinion, the opinion of an artist.

  • Lamott

    I am reading another book about how creative our brains are after a stroke. Shadows Bright as Glass. I never heard the word “disinhibition” before and now I have read it in two places in one week. I really think the brain is amazing. I like to think of my whole life lived in a flow of creativity. I am always multi-tasking with my job as a network technician. Prioritizing which trouble ticket should be worked first in light of the critical nature of some networks. I like having the ability to juggle the job with family problems and friends and friends kids. I enjoy hanging with kids because they are always planning their next ‘start-up’ company. They want to be in bands and color hair and design tattoos and make a clothing line. I am the same way. I might be 57 but I want to write books and work on networks, build Legos and study Physics and of course the brain all at the same time. Where to start? Everywhere! Thanks for the book!

  • Tom

    Patrick hits on a great point that makes me question how someone is really supposed to get an accurate assessment of their creative make-up.  I looked in the BOOK and, as an example, the R (Reasoning) brainset has a maximum total of 30 points and the Ev (Evaluating) brainset had a maximum of 19 points … the T (Transform) has a maximum of only 8 and S (Stream) has a maximum of 5!  Given that, it’s no surprise that my two highest scores were in Reasoning and Evaluating and that my two lowest scores were in Transform and Streaming … in fact, both of my high scores were more than Transform and Streaming could have ever been.  You need to correct this for the next revision … and it would be nice if you would offer some sort of updated version of the test on your website and/or offer some updated version of how to score the test.  My Reasoning and Evaluating brain suspects this test was not thoroughly vetted.

  • Dnwyo

    I absolutely love your book. It explains why I am so “weird”. I took both Cluster Questions in the book and came out with a tie for first (Connect and Envision) with Absorb a close second (or rather a third). I have only finished chapter 6 so far but have not found any mention of a tie. Did I do something wrong?
    Also, recently I overheard someone say that the great majority of people dream in black and white, while only very unusual people dream in color. This had never occurred to me as I have always dreamed in color and assumed that everyone does. What do you know about this?

  • http://dailstrug.wordpress.com Gary Freedman

    I struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. I was diagnosed with the disorder by the George Washington University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry in February 1996.


    I am currently in weekly psychotherapy. I have written summaries of several of my therapy sessions. Might you perhaps have an academic interest in taking a look at the link below? It is an unusual document that offers detailed insight into the mind of someone with schizophrenia. You may share the document at will. I place no restrictions on this material.