Creativity is a state of mind
Creativity may seem to just randomly come and go as it pleases. But creativity is not just some floating spirit that occasionally jumps into your head. Creativity is a state of mind. By understanding this we can have more control and attempt to access creative thought whenever we need it.
The best way for me to describe this state of mind is this. Think of being on a long road trip. You’ve been driving for a while and you hit a long stretch of straight, empty highway. Your mind stops focusing on all the details and just kind of wanders until you have lost track of time and driven miles without really being aware of it. During this time, you might’ve not been aware of every passing sign but you could’ve come up with some great ways to solve that problem from last week’s test.
So what causes this shift and why does it have to happen in the car rather than when you need to come up with an idea for a new logo? The next sections will explain the reasons this occurs and some ways to recreate this situation on demand.
Your brain hates being bored. So when your environment no longer presents any new information your brain will zone out and start working on other things. That’s why great ideas can often come when doing mundane tasks. Our brain is not really needed too much when we are in the shower or driving down an empty highway, so it stays productive by solving problems.
This is one reason it is not a smart idea to try to multi-task while looking for creativity. If the brain has plenty of other new stimuli to interpret, it won’t be as focused on coming up with the best solution for your problem.
A great exercise that some of my professors have used in class is time to draw or write aimlessly. Just grabbing a pencil and paper and drawing or writing whatever comes to mind. This helps with zoning out/sending your brain into a creative mode of thinking. The parts of your brain that help with creativity also control movement, so this helps stimulate those regions of the brain.
I’ll be the first to admit I am not particularly talented when it comes to drawing. So this exercise usually consists of a lot of scribbles and doodles. But it really does help clear my head and get the creative juices flowing.
Music and Noise
Music plays a huge role for me getting into my creative state of mind. However, music is not necessarily needed. Having any sort of moderate ambient background noise can really help boost your creative process. By increasing the level of background noise (either through music or a bustling coffee shop) you decrease the brains ability to process the individual things occurring around you thus increase abstract processing. However, if the noises or music are too loud it will decrease the brains ability for creative thinking.
What kind of music is best? I think a lot of it depends on what you are doing. For writing I prefer instrumental with a more ambient and upbeat style. For example, while writing this article I listened to Spotify’s “Productive Morning” playlist which is full of great stuff. On the other hand, for sketching I prefer to listen to a much more upbeat, indie, creative style of unfamiliar music. But I think it all depends on your preferences and what you are working on.
When you are in the creative state of mind you might find it almost unnatural to talk. This is because the parts of the brain that deal with the logical functions also control speech. You might have notice that when you are trying to work out a complex math equation you will often talk yourself through it, but not so much when you are drawing or doodling. My advice for this is to avoid situations where you will have to verbally communicate with other people while you are trying to get in a creative mode.
Enjoy what you do
Have you ever noticed that people who love what they do tend to do it better? I don’t believe this is coincidence. Great ideas are not going to come if you are just trying to get it done. When you are excited to work on a project the process is fun and flows naturally. Also, the more likely you are to reach better ideas and not settle with the first decent one that comes around.
Everyone is born creative
That includes you. You just have to work on regaining that childlike curiosity and imagination.
So go try to put these ideas to the test. Leave me a comment letting me know how they work for you, and if you have found any other ways to channel your creativity.