Creativity has traditionally been understood as an added bonus or special ‘gift’ and, by extension, unavailable to the average person. This myth is valuable for certain industries, but our culture has suffered for it. As we will see, the opportunity for creativity is not a special trait for the privileged few, but a result of a healthy and normally functioning set of systems in the brain. Modern creative theory describes a contextual process of many stages and information loops, but focus has moved from individual creative expression to the group systems of creativity which depend on them. This means less emphasis on the important role of the individual’s internal generation of ideas and how this is expressed into a group system. I aim to explore the processes and systems involved in idea generation that allows an unconscious processing of information to occur, where an idea forms and moves into conscious expression. This can be described as the ‘fuel’ of creativity, as it not only seems to allow the generation of new ideas from old, but also seems to provide the energy to move them into being, from unconscious shadows to conscious conception.
Using neuroscientific findings on the processes and relationships between different systems of the brain, I hope to show that creativity is part of everybody’s physiology and therefore the difficulties in the taxonomy of creativity is due to cultural bias and not human ability or behaviour. I will be focusing on the processes that seem to instill in us the need to express and create, through the tensions between our inner processes and external cultural forces. I will compare the theories regarding this with personal accounts of creative processes in order to better understand the brain’s ability to move ideas from unconscious to conscious thought. I will also discuss how sometimes this involves expressing the idea externally first, what I will refer to as preconscious expression (Freud, 1991). I also hope it will serve as a basis to better understand the techniques that can influence this rather temperamental phenomenon in order to better use it for valuable creative ends.
Arieti (1976) describes a preconscious motivation to create, such as an overflow of stimulus and resulting energy that is made up of “amorphous cognition”. He refers to the pre-conscious formation of a thought as an “endocept,” an internal process or concept that is never able to reach the conscious mind, and therefore hard to express as other, secondary-process ideas are expressed (Arieti 1976, p.54). Endocepts cannot be shared directly; “the content of an endocept can be communicated to other people only when it is translated into expressions belonging to other levels: for instance into words, music, drawings, and so forth.”
This essay will discuss related research and theory surrounding endoceptual expression, in order to understand the processes and mechanisms involved and how they relate to theories of creativity. As this is a conceptual piece, it cannot give the answers and observations a more empirical study would be able to offer, but I am confident that by collecting personal statements of participants’ subjective analysis of their creative processes and focusing their attention to the question of endocepts and preconscious expression, I will be able to ascertain how widely this experience is recognized and what systems in the brain are in play to create it.