Dr. Ysbrand van der Werf, Wouter Boon and Dr. Matthijs Baas at the launch of ‘Defining Creativity.’

“You seem to be the creative type” is a strange little combination of words I hear every once in a while when I find myself getting to know someone new. What it means, I don’t know. I’ve always figured it’s because of my curly hair and my quirky motor skills. It might just be that in fact it has nothing to do with my appearance. Nevertheless, I have noticed that I do take it as a compliment. But what the hell does it actually mean; to be creative? And, aren’t we all the creative type? This is a thought that has crossed my mind several times, as I’m sure it has crossed yours as well. For all who have wondered this, now there’s a concise little book – Defining Creativity – written by Wouter Boon that dives into “The Art and Science of Great Ideas.”

Unfamiliar combinations
The book is a great read for anyone who wonders how, why and what’s going on in the brain when we’re creative. In fact, it approaches the subject from many different angles; biological, psychological, and socio-cultural. The essence is that creativity is a state of mind where you employ the ability to make unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas. And apparently the more surprising the combination, the more creative potential it has. Or, in the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus; “The unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious.” According to the book it is – among other things – talent and practiced skill that support creative minds to explore their creative domain and make these unexpected combinations.

99% perspiration
At the book launch last Thursday in Pakhuis de Zwijger, Boon gave the audience a taste of his research and the process that was the build up to realizing the book. By quoting Thomas Edison – who said 1% of the creative process is inspiration while 99% is perspiration – he described it as a hard and lengthy process.

Science and creativity
Apart from sharing his personal experience, Boon also gave the floor to two scientists, making the event an unexpectedly educational experience. We were let in on some of the science behind creativity. Neuroscientist Dr. Ysbrand van der Werf shared some insights concerning the effect of sleep on the cognitive processes in the brain. It appears that sleep can truly boost your creative potential; sleeping it over thus can really help to generate new ideas. Next, psychologist Dr. Matthijs Baas talked about how mood states influence creativity and why one is more creative when active (be it excitement or even fear) over passive (bored or even extremely relaxed), and when in a good mood over a bad mood.

It was an afternoon full of interesting insights and anecdotes that got me very curious for what other little gems the book has inside.

You can learn more about the book here.