All the Ways Reading Inspires Creativity
I find small talk limiting. You can only talk about the weather for so long and feign interest in someone’s weekend plans before you crave for the conversation to end.
I prefer shifting the discussion towards something that actually piques my curiosity. “What book are you currently reading?”
This is when I receive a long rant, the I-don’t-have-the-time and I-haven’t-read-in-years and I’m-too-tired-to-read sort of speeches. Then I wish I never mentioned it in the first place.
When I ask a creative person—I happen to know quite a few—it’s an immersive experience. They rattle off the book title and author before plunging deep into the heart of the story.
This is when real conversations start.
Sure, these readers aren’t the ones that wrote the book they’re reading. But the act of telling that story to someone else leads the conversation somewhere. And before we both know it, we’ve reached an unexpected epiphany.
For isn’t the art of creativity connecting ideas together?
Don’t just take my word for it. There’s some science to my theory.
Your Brain on Books
After a long day at the office and running errands and school functions, all you want to do is relax for an hour or two before bed.
So you turn on your TV to watch the game or stream your latest fav show until you’re glued to the screen for double overtime or the season finale.
That’s the best way to relax, right? It’s how everyone you know winds down for the night, so there must be some truth to it.
Well, it’s not doing your brain any favors. The more you watch TV, the more negative consequences on your verbal abilities—not to mention increase your physical aggression.
That doesn’t sound very relaxing to me.
Luckily, the reverse happens when you read a good book. This study found the lasting effects on our language processing regions after reading a great story. Readers continue to experience heightened activity in their sensorimotor regions days after reading the last page.
So, TV or books? That’s a no-brainer.
(Most articles and blog posts about this subject link to a 2009 conducted by a fancy-named research lab backed by a prestigious university about how reading is the best way to relax. But until someone can link to the actual study and not its Telegraph article, I’m ruling it as a false statistic.)
What About Audiobooks?
My brother-in-law is an avid listener of audiobooks. Being seven months into fatherhood, listening to books allows him to stick with his favorite hobby of reading and still keep up with household chores and walking his dog around the neighborhood.
As he often says, “I don’t read books with my eyes.”
While avid readers may sneer at audiobook addicts, it’s still proven its worth over television. Listening to a story, as opposed to watching it on the big screen, evokes a stronger emotional response and increases heart rate.
But what about the book vs audiobook debate? When it comes to story comprehension, there’s no difference in reader recall between either medium. This research backs me up.
So, What Does All of This Have to Do with Creativity?
Quite a bit, actually. The research illustrated above only emphasizes how our creative behaviors, from refined language skills to experiencing emotions more powerfully, is often the result of a regular habit of reading.
Reading is Exercise For Your Brain
If you tie on your fitness shoes, chances are that you will go work out. If you open a book, chances are that you’ll read it.
But if you turn on the TV, chances are that’s how you’ll pass the time.
Creativity grows from a solid foundation of ideas. What reading does is challenge your mind to visualize a story with the power of your imagination. A regular practice of this leads to visualizing a story of your own or visualizing how to solve a problem.
Reading Connects Ideas
Whether you read a novel or non-fiction, reading boosts your knowledge base. Some books are a wealth of knowledge as others spark an idea that launches you deep into the depths of further research.
The more you know, the more concepts you have to work with. And you’ll find yourself having an easier time solving problems and making creative connections when you have more ideas and concepts in your collection.
Reading Starts Conversations
Think about the most captivating conversations you’ve had. Were they about the reality show you watched last night?
Of course not.
Fantastic discussions revolve around ideas and experiences. And you don’t get experiences by gluing your eyes to a screen.
When you read regularly, you inherit the cadence of conversation, from the rhythm of words to how to shift ideas into the chat. You’ll find that choosing impactful and relevant words will come more naturally to you the more consistent you are with your reading habits.
Good morning. I’ve just joined this wonderful community of “writing” and all that is beautiful about it. I recently returned to college as a Junior and there is a lot of wonderful writing to be done. (I Love It!). I look forward to learning from this community.