Multitasking and creativity

Lately I’ve been reading about research into the brain and its ability to multitask, which as my wife reminds me, is impossible for men. Much of the research suggests the brain (male or female) doesn’t really multitask, more likely it rapidly toggles among tasks rather than simultaneously processing multiple tasks. Based on my own experience I’d tend to agree with that theory. Whenever my attention is divided between competing subjects, I am really not as effective on any of them. I need to be focused on one thing to do it well. However, I think this only applies if we limit our discussions to conscious thought processes. Why? Because I’m convinced that somewhere in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind, I can be working on creative ideas even while I handle tasks that demand my conscious attention; things like the plot line for the current book I’m working on, how to solve the household fix-it chore that has eluded me for the last few days, or any problem that I have spent time on and cannot resolve.

It is the only way I can explain what happens. For example, while writing a novel, I often type until I run out of things to say. I reach a point where there’s nothing more in the tank. I stop, go do something else and then, some time later, maybe stepping out of the shower to towel off, maybe closing the book I’m reading and getting ready to turn out the light and go to sleep and suddenly, there is the next thread. Often it is more of the story than I have been consciously thinking about. Like magic there it is, all ready to put down on paper. Where does it come from? I don’t know. Maybe the writer’s muse? Or maybe multitasking happens just not on a conscious level.

What do you think?