Here is the full text and summary of Raphael DiLuzio’s talk titled “7 Steps of Creative Thinking” at TEDxDirigo conference.
Listen to the audio version here:
Raphael DiLuzio – Art Professor
Hello, thank you. I’m going to be talking today about things lost and things discovered. I’ll also be talking about demystifying the creative process.
To start, I have to begin with a little background story and a question. How many of you have suffered one great loss or another in your lives? Okay, it’s a room full.
Well, we are told that we’re not defined by the loss, but we’re defined by how we respond to it. And that holds true for also things that happen to us that are good. It’s not the events that happen to us, but it’s about how we respond to those events.
Our Response To Events Defines Us
I am recovering from what they call a post-concussive condition. I had nine concussions, which is a few too many in my life. I think after the age of ten, you’re only supposed to have three, and people have to collect something, so why not collect concussions? But with concussions, when you recover from it, they call it post-concussive disorder. And many of the boys that are girls and girls that are coming back from overseas are suffering from something similar called post-concussive disorder, which we’re just beginning to find out about.
Mine happened in 2008. I was hit by an 18-wheel truck that decided to park in the backseat of my car, a bad parking spot. And when I came out of the accident, about a week later, I lost a lot of things. One of the things I lost was my ability to talk and my ability to remember who I was, which may have been a good thing. I was told I’m much nicer now since the accident. I’m not sure how to take that from my best friend.
Also, I lost a superpower. When I was a little child, I started drawing, and I started studying art at the age of nine and was formally trained and could literally draw anything both in my head and in front of me. And after the accident, my hand would just go like this. My doctor also told me that I would never get my higher words back, which was upsetting as a professor, and that it would take 10 years before I could teach or recover. And I said, I’ll start tomorrow teaching.
The university that I taught at allowed me to teach one course. My students were really lovely in letting me come in. But in order to do that, I had to learn how to talk again. And I wasn’t really sure what to do because they were going to wait six months before giving me speech therapy. They like your brain to settle.
One night before going to bed, I had a sudden little flash of an idea, a little eureka moment, which I’ll talk about those in a second. I thought of reading the New York Times newspaper, listening to the audio edition of it and recording myself and watching myself over and over to retrain myself to talk. And I did that.
I did that to my girlfriends, to my girlfriends’ dismay, over and over and over and over. One word at a time, one sentence at a time until I could talk. And by the time I went to speech therapy, they said, you’re doing quite well. What’d you do? And I told them, they said, well, how did you figure that out? I said, I don’t know. I just came up with this idea.
And I want to talk to you about that process of coming up with ideas. Before the accident, people used to ask me if I was an artist. And I thought being called an artist was pretentious. And I used to say, no, I’m a painter, as if that has any less pretension. And I thought that because I was defining myself as a painter, I wasn’t attaching my creative process in the same way, which I thought was this thing that came from this mysterious place. I thought that by not being an artist and just being a painter, it was more like a blue collar worker somehow. And my creative process was more like that.
But I didn’t really understand it. And I began to study it and investigate it a little bit. And oddly, the things that came back to me in memory after the accident were things from way before the accident.
In my studies of the creative process, one of the things I came across from Plato was the dialogue, The Theaetetus, that talks about the seven stages of philosophical midwifery. And in the early 1990s, I met Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel laureate physicist who was doing research in creativity at the Institute. And they discovered seven processes in creativity, too. And I’m going to share those with you.
The fifth stage of the creative process, which I’ll talk to them out of order, but since the brain injury, I can’t really count. So it’s OK. The fifth stage is that Eureka moment. And that Eureka moment is very important. How many of you have a little flash of an idea before you go to bed or when you wake up in the morning or while you’re driving? We have little flashes of ideas, whether it’s a song or how to fix something or how to overcome some problem at a job.
These little flashes are very important. These are our Eureka moments. And when we have these, how many of you jump out of the bed in the middle of winter and write those down or pull your car over, not do it while you’re driving, because you’ll run into me and then I’ll get my 10th concussion, and write these ideas down?
These ideas are very important, and we often don’t realize how important they are to us. And it’s not that we don’t believe in ourselves, but we don’t believe in the validity of these little ideas, these little moments, this fifth stage. But these are important, and these are important to write down so you can get to the first stage.