Janusian Thinking and the Artistic Process

The adjective "Janusian" comes from the Roman deity Janus, the god of gates, entryways, beginnings, and endings. He is typically depicted with two heads, each facing in opposite directions.

Because of this, Janus sees the world in an unusual way: he perceives the past and the future with equal clarity. Articles about Janus typically begin appearing in print and online in late December each year, as one year ends and another begins.



The term "Janusian thinking" was coined by Dr. Albert Rothenberg in the late 1970s when he realized that many of the world's most creative people share an attribute of Janus: they are able to hold contrary perceptions and concepts in their minds at the same time. This practice of filling your brain with paradoxes and considering the myriad of possibilities is believed to open the mind and facilitate "out-of-the-box" problem solving.



flexibility improves creativity

photograph of paintbrushes and cans


Such flexibility in thinking is important to the artistic process as well. It is rare that the muses give an artist the gift of fully-formed inspiration. In creating artworks, an artist more typically explores which of his many ideas are worth pursuing. He allows himself a significant amount of room for exploration and brainstorming, for paradoxes and dilemmas. Ideas flow and begin to more fully mature. With any luck, those ideas build upon themselves and give birth to more ideas. Some ideas gel together nicely; others seem to be incompatible. The artist may examine and test his ideas, to see if they are valid and viable. At some point, the artist has an "ah, ha!" moment on how to piece his ideas together. There may be multiple solutions and the artist decides which are worth pursuing. The ideas are executed. Some succeed; other's don't. Then the cycle begins all over again.



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