Have you ever read something in a book—or have maybe you read an entire book—then found yourself almost immediately having forgotten what you read the moment you put the book down?
It can feel like a wasted effort, to invest any amount of time to learning something new, only to feel like you learned nothing afterward.
Of course that’s not how the brain works. We know that there’s a lot happening in our brains than our higher level consciousness is unaware of. Our brains are using billions of neurons to process billions of little pieces of information in any given moment. When you read, or experience something, the changes these things make on your brain occur whether you feel it or not.
You may not consciously be able to pull certain, precise, bits of information from that book you read last summer, but your brain was undoubtedly influenced by it.
When it comes to creativity, the more information we have to pull from and smash together, the more capable we are of imagining new and unique possibilities. Yet, if we can’t pull that information readily to mind, does it have the same impact?
I believe the answer is unequivocally yes. Because what you experience—whether it’s reading a book, chatting a stranger, or starting a new hobby—physically changes your brain. You cannot reverse the change, as the information has already influenced your brain. Even if you don’t exactly retain all of the knowledge from the experience, your brain is forever going to be imprinted with the experience.
Maybe the information will percolate up when you least expect it. Perhaps, when it does, you won’t even be able to recall where you first acquired the knowledge. You’ll believe things yet struggle to remember when you first came to believe them.
Not being able to recall everything from what you ready is a powerful excuse to avoid reading in the first place, but the impact reading—or traveling, or trying something new, or meditation—has on your brain is very real.
If you want to think more creatively, give your brain the fuel it needs to make as many connections as it can. Reading is a good place to start.