The Inner Workings of the Creative Mind

The Inner Workings of the Creative Mind

Written by Lin Marshall


Humans are characterised by our strong desire to know the answers to everything.

We wonder and want answers. We question ourselves and the people around us.


“Why is the sky blue?”

“How do we remember things?”

“Why do we cry?”


But one of my questions, the most prominent question, was “why are we creative?” How is it possible to just create ideas and want to manifest it into reality? How does that process happen? Why does creativity exist?


In order to understand it scientifically, I think we should first define what creativity is.


The dictionary says that creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness. In other words, creativity helps you to generate solutions, find hidden patterns, and see the world with fresh eyes.




“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.” – Rollo May, The Courage to Create


Second of all, we need to debunk some myths. You know how the left brain is really realistic, analytical, practical, organised, and logical, and the right brain is so darn creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colourful, vivid, and poetic?


You’re actually incorrect.


Forget the “right-brain” myth, a new study suggests it’s how well the two brain hemispheres communicate that sets highly creative people apart. The creative process isn’t dependent on a single brain region or side of the brain, but rather depends on the cohesiveness of a number of regions and involves a concerto of brain-wide neuronal activity.


The creative process has two stages:

  1. The free flow of experimentation and the creation of a new concept or work of art.
  1. The rehearsing, editing and assessing the final product as it evolves into the final piece.


There are also 3 networks required in the creative process:

(the following is taken directly from:


RED: The executive attention network

GREEN: The Default Network

YELLOW: The Salience Network


The Executive Attention Network :

It is active when you’re concentrating on a challenging lecture, or engaging in complex problem solving and reasoning that puts heavy demands on working memory. This neural architecture involves efficient and reliable communication between lateral (outer) regions of the prefrontal cortex and areas toward the back (posterior) of the parietal lobe. It is most likely used more in the second phase of creativity. Focusing on, checking, and sharpening the final product, rather than the initial freeform creative process.


As you read this, your executive attention network will be busying itself (as long as you are paying attention, of course).


The Default Network:

Also referred to as the imagination network, is used to construct dynamic mental simulations. It builds pictures based on previous experiences and imagines alternative scenarios and events. The default network is situated deep in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe, with connections to parts of the parietal cortex.   Active during bouts of daydreaming, when the brain is not focused on the outside world, the default network is implicated in functions such as collecting facts about the self, reflecting on personal emotions and remembering past events.


When we are imagining what someone else is thinking, this brain network is active.


The Salience Network:

This network helps the brain decide what to pay attention to. Our eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin are constantly bombarded with sensory stimulation. The salience network helps us choose which inputs to pay attention to and which to ignore. This network consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortices [dACC] and anterior insular [AI] and is important for dynamic switching between networks.


While driving a car, your visual field is filled with asphalt, sky, trees, traffic lights, birds, the steering wheel, your eyelashes and much, much more. Despite the wealth of options, the salience network draws your attention to the woman with the buggy attempting to cross the road 200 m down on the right.


It’s crazy to think about how everything, EVERYTHING, around us exists because of creativity.

Think about it: creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Someone was creative enough to invent languages, someone else thought about the different possible ways of communication and created one to be writing. A person once came across a river, and instead of getting his feet wet, created a bridge. Another individual thought about transferring what we think onto paper (drawing and painting.)

If you have not thought about this, you would not have realised that out of all human activities, creativity comes closest to making you feel the fulfilment we all hope to get in our lives.

Because when we are creative, we are able to create; we leave something behind, we do something with our lives, and we are happy.

Value your ideas, your mind, your brain, your creativity, yourself. You are amazing, beautiful, and you can do so so many things, you just have to believe in yourself and let your mind go.



  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
  • Know when to work alone and when to work together.
  • Share – tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  • No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  • The customer defines a job well done.
  • Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  • Invent different ways of working.
  • Make a contribution every day. If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
  • Believe that together we can do anything.
    -1999 HP Annual Report


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