Analytical vs. Creative – Day 7

The analytical mind is so different from the creative mind…I feel like they look for the things in absolutes, and we actually like the infinity of everything. – Octavia Spencer

One thing I really enjoy is watching in-depth interviews with actors, especially actors who are very good at what they do. I think in a lot of ways I enjoy smart people talking about what they do, but my interest in performance and movies drives my interest in actor interviews.

It was as a part of an actor on actor interview with Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) and Dev Patel (Lion) that I heard the above quote. Spencer was responding to a question about whether she had any influences to draw off for her role in Hidden Figures. I listened to this part of the conversation multiple times, revisiting it more than once, because it didn’t quite feel right. After a fair amount of thought, I feel that I need to disagree with the idea that the analytical and creative minds are as different as many think they are.

I won’t disagree that there are some differences, and that many people do lean more one way or the other. However, looking back at my own experiences, I think there are an incredible number of similarities between these two approaches. I would say that I lean more to a creative mindset and desire, but I began college as an engineering student, moved into the math department, and then eventually found my way to where I ended up. Even after ending up in a humanities and social science area, I can still recognize very analytical pieces of myself. I can come up with creative ideas and decisions, but often after analysis of the situation. I’m fascinated by logic, and often find a logical process very intuitive.

There were many reasons for why I started in science and math fields before ending up in the humanities and social sciences, and many of those were because I did enjoy aspects of these more analytically-driven fields. In the end, it didn’t come down to something I could or couldn’t understand or relate to, but rather what I wanted to devote my time to.

Even before college, I felt the mix between analytical and creative, though I perhaps understood less about how these meshed inside of me. I really enjoyed things like band and always wanted to try to draw, but I also liked math (for the most part) and history. I found a real mixture of both in marching band. The creativity that came through drumming and the precision from the movements and sets in the show formed an activity that I thoroughly enjoyed. I found myself after high school wanting to work in the space program and be a musician.

I know that I’m not the only person who can weave between analytical and creative mindsets. Later in their conversation, Spencer and Patel discuss “technicians” in acting who break down their character – a very analytical approach to a creative field. In Hidden Figures, one character discusses the need for a person who can “look beyond the numbers” – needing someone with a creative approach to an analytical field.

I don’t know much about brain chemistry, but I do know (or, at least, have heard that) one side of the brain is the analytical side and one side is the creative side. Everyone is either “right-brained” or “left-brained,” depending on which side of the brain is stronger or more dominant. However, we couldn’t function if both sides of the brain didn’t work in concert with each other – it is not only one side or the other that is operating at any given time.

Ultimately, even though I find myself yearning for a creative job or a very large creative space to work in, I still have a strong desire to understand things analytically. I still may go back to school for a public policy degree, but that decision is largely driven by a desire to know exactly what I am talking about in presenting information to others. It is not enough for me to be on one side or the other of the equation: I want to know as much as I can about both sides, to grasp as much as possible about what I want to communicate and how to communicate it. In some ways this seems like a “renaissance man” type of approach in practicum, but in many more ways it just feels natural.

A lot of this thought process has led to why I began writing these posts daily. I want to write something that has a structure that can be clearly understood, but there are many different ways to do that. I also have the option of writing about any different number of topics. Sometimes the choices and options can be overwhelming, but the daily schedule has already had a way of forcing me to choose something and see what I can do. I literally wrote a 1,000 word post about parentheses, for crying out loud.

I have often struggled with the thought that I don’t need to be in one job for the rest of my life, that I can do and experience different things vocationally. I haven’t often felt that freedom when trying to decide what it is that I want to do, especially at a point when suddenly I don’t have many specifics in mind for what that means. I feel that my analytical and creative sides could allow me to do many different things, but many different places want a specific focus (on anything, really) that I haven’t had up to this point. Perhaps there was a late-bloomer-ness to my learning or decision making, and maybe there’s more to learn about what is coming. With that said, I’ve had more analytical type jobs up to this point, would like to try more creative type positions, but don’t feel that either of these mindsets, analytical or creative, are mutually exclusive.

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