Creative process: How memory loss destroys creativity

By Dennis Mellersh

It is only through the brain’s use of its memory, its database from the past, that the brain is able to create anything new and make sense of the present.

Nothing “new” can be created by our brain unless there is a past – our past – to create it from.

And our past includes that clever quote we read one minute ago; the intriguing thought we had 30 seconds ago, the blog post title we read five seconds ago, as well as everything we have absorbed over a  lifetime.

We can each probably identify with the considerable frustration of having misplaced something important just when we needed it – our car keys, an important phone number we wrote down on a scrap of paper, our eyeglasses.

But it is difficult to imagine the mental and emotional agony of being fully alert but going through the process of having one’s memory being destroyed from within.

From a scientific perspective I found a vivid and frightening image of what catastrophic memory loss through Alzheimer’s disease can mean to the sufferer in a book by Abby Smith Rumsey, When We Are No More: How digital memory is shaping our future:

“The healthy mind is a master weaver, always at the loom fabricating and mending, trimming and reinforcing memories to make strong patterns of association readily available…But in Alzheimer’s, the weaver has gone mad and the moths have taken over. The fabric of memory disintegrates into smaller and smaller shapes and sizes, facts of a life story fall away with them, and at some critical point, so does the sense of cause and effect, of the self’s continuity over time.  No patterns are discernible in the tatters and rags. Meaning has disappeared. Events exist outside the context of time and place. The future is unimaginable and the present utterly without purpose.”(1)

At which point “creativity” and the “creative process” are just words or letter groupings without meaning.

(1) Abby Smith Rumsey, When We Are No More, Bloomsbury Press, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, New York, 2016

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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