It’s 5am. I am suddenly awake, bolt upright. A strange feeling. I had to get up NOW and do it. I knew I couldn’t do anything else until I did.
I needed to WRITE. The creative juices that I long to flow when I want them to were bursting through a dam of their own accord. The malady of the right brained. I’m not a writer, but a business owner. I write prose and poetry not yet fit for human consumption. Like most, I have a constant bubbling of great ideas about business, life and the universe continually bumping into the daily tasks in hand.
So, what’s the issue? Getting that 5am focused urge to write, or CHANNELING the effervescence of ideas into projects doesn’t happen as often as I need it to. I wish it did. It’s exhilarating. It takes no effort – I am in flow, safely inside a bubble’s sphere instead of outside of it, watching it go pop. So how can we get creative in the first place? And act upon those ideas to see them through to fruition? Fortunately, there is quite a lot we can do to get our juices going and get in flow. Backed by hard evidence. Here’s just a few:
1. Get stimulated
Before you get creative on a project, gather info that your brain can use as raw ingredients. Read widely on a subject. Use Google. Look at solutions others have come up with for similar problems. Wonder at art, music, architecture, feats of engineering and science.
2. Focus on what floats your boat
Ever notice how if you are looking for ‘red flowers’ you see lots? Or blue? Focus on the world around you as it relates to your particular creative project. Your brain will ‘zoom in’ like a camera lens and pick out the information you need. Use tools like Evernote as a back up brain ‘dump’ for this raw material. Review regularly.
3. Trust it will come all by itself
Neuroscience suggests that approx 80-90% of ‘thought’ is done by the subconscious brain. So don’t try too hard to consciously ‘overcome’ a creativity block by overthinking. Allow the mind to do the work and it will happen. Feel the force, as Yoda would say. When thoughts do come – have a pen and paper notebook handy to jot down. I have one on my desk, in my handbag, and by my bed at all times.
4. Do it in bed
Sleep on a problem. It’s not a myth – Deirdre Barrett from the Harvard Medical School has demonstrated that creative problem solving is majorly enhanced by sleep. There’s an excellent TED talk by Barrett. The author John Steinbeck famously said “a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
5. Get a little noisy
My best ideas come in the shower. I spend ages in there, as I feel so alive and creative. Could this be down to the background noise? Science has shown that a little, particularly white noise, at about 70 decibels enhances the creative mind. Any louder than 85db, & that process is inhibited.
6. Do it somewhere different
Even something as simple as swapping office chairs or working in a café has been proven to enhance creativity. Swap it about for fun.
7. Do it outside
George deMestral went for a stroll in the countryside in 1948 & came back with the idea for Velcro. Lots of research has proven that being in a ‘green’ environment has a huge impact on relaxation and creativity levels. Get out there with your pad & pen. Be safe, wear wellies. It’s nicer to feel the mud between your toes though.
8. Do it alone
It’s a myth that group brainstorming works. Best to come back to the table as a collective once you’ve all gone through the creative process – alone. It’s quicker, easier. And more productive.
9. Lie down on the job
My favourite business/ self help book ever is 59 Seconds by the psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman. In it, he suggests one of the best methods for dramatically altering the stress hormone balance in your body to prime it for creativity is to lie down.
10. Leave it alone to recover
Wiseman also suggests if you really are stuck in a creative hole, go and occupy the conscious logic side of your brain by doing a puzzle. Distract the loud conscious voice in your head which is saying: “I can’t do this” and allow your quiet subconscious a chance to speak.
I look forward to the next exciting uncontrollable creative urge. With this list I hope it happens much more often. Off to the woods with my pad, pen and white noise app… See you there?
Michelle Beckett the MD for a new social enterprise called Skill Will, which links charities and the third sector to business so they can benefit from the volunteering of skills, services & expertise. Based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Michelle is also a single mum to three daughters. Apart from an interest in social media & social enterprise, she is an am dram musical theatre ham, founder member of Harrogate Skeptics in the Pub & Leeds Sunday Assembly, a humanist, reader of New Scientist magazine, Yorkshire Tea fundamentalist, & lover of all things Attenborough.