What even is creativity? Liane Gabora, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, beautifully described it as a trait that allows us to “visualize something that does not exist and change the world with it.” Sounds fantastic. Now, how to do it?
We are all familiar with Csikszentmihalyi’s theory that in order for the creative process to occur, the essential factor is “flow”, which won’t happen if we overload ourselves with tasks. Following that narrative, Phillip McIntyre from University of Newcastle says that a common mistake is what he calls “overdoing”. We are too eager, too ambitious even and, apparently, we don’t know when to stop, which can easily kill what we thought would be our most creative and brilliant moments. It is best to narrow your focus and concentrate on one thing at a time.
What you should do: Focus on one thing at a time
Yes, you read that right. It turns out that the emotion which carries such negative connotations can have a positive impact on your creativity. Contrary to what Csikszentmihaly said, Rebekah Cadman and Sandi Mann from University of Central Lancashire conducted research which showed that a little boredom never hurt anybody. Csikszentmihaly wasn’t completely wrong, though. Researchers found that performing a boring task might be useful only before pursuing the creative task as it has an affect on stimulating the creative part of your brain. The results showed that being bored indeed sparks up creativity. The study also revealed that it’s even better if, of all the boring activities possible, you choose to read something that makes your thoughts wander off.
What you should do: Read the most boring book you can find
Speaking of thoughts wandering off, it has been proven that daydreaming, which often is the indirect result of being bored, can benefit our creative thinking. Researchers from the University of Oregon argue that when we are daydreaming we usually lose control of our thoughts and therefore allow ourselves to think of things we normally consciously wouldn’t come up with. From now on, if anyone questions why you’ve been staring at a wall for 15 minutes, just tell them you’re working on your creativity.
What you should do: Let your thoughts trail off
Creativity doesn’t exist without inspiration, however you can’t just sit around and wait for your muse to magically appear at your feet. Anna Weinstein, the series editor at PERFORM, says that in order to get inspired, we need to get out of our comfort zone and literally get out there. She says that experiences are the best source of creativity. Moreover, Weinstein recommends getting really vulnerable and open up to people and experiences. Without them, one cannot reach the honest level of creativity that will then emerge into an authentic piece of work, whatever your creative outlet is.
What you should do: Get out of your comfort zone
There is a common misconception that we need absolute silence in order to focus. Of course, it is up to your personal preference. However, studies show that a little bit of background noise could actually be beneficial. It’s been proven that it is better to work in an environment where we might encounter slight distractions or, what the experts call, ambient noise. A lot of people find, for example, music quite distracting, but light chatter in the background might actually help us to focus and create. Next time you are stuck in a rut, why not try going to a café.
What you should do: Take the noise-cancelling headphones off
Another myth is that you need to wake up at 6 am or some other ungodly hour every day, otherwise your day will be ruined and you won’t produce a single creative thought. Studies show that there is scientific proof that there is no definite time of the day or night when your brain works best. It’s better to test it out for yourself when you are most focused and eager to work. Don’t let anyone judge if it’s 2 am. And don’t worry if there are days when hours pass and you don’t feel it at all, it happens to the best of us. Creative flow cannot be forced. So relax and turn that alarm off, experts told you so.
What you should do: Don’t force it
Take some time alone
Good news to all introverts, or people who just don’t like to spend time with others: you no longer need to. Not to get creative at least. Liane Gabora from University of British Columbia argues that even though brainstorming might be a good practice occasionally, it can do more harm than good. The bigger the group, the more we have to wait to be able to voice our ideas, and the more we get easily distracted by the amount of incentives surrounding us which can lead to us getting overstimulated and our thoughts turning into chaos. The solution that Gaborais provides is to perhaps not exclude a small group meeting, however, to make sure to follow it up with an individual idea-pitching session.
What you should do: Stay away from crowds
It seems that we are trying to contradict every statement that ever existed and we are really sorry to all the pedants out there, but the truth is out: messy desks helps. It not only drives the brain to work “better”, or at least harder, but it also improves the process of shaping ideas. Researchers from the University of Minnesota announced that, according to their research, people tend to be more creative and produce better work when they are located in a messy environment rather than a spotless one. This doesn’t necessarily mean your desk must look like Armageddon, but try to throw a paper here, a pencil there, and see what happens.
What you should do: Unorganized desks are the way to go
Creativity in a cup
Last but definitely not least: whether it is more about the placebo effect or whether drinking specific liquids actually helps – we’re not sure. However, researchers from China’s Peking University have proven that drinking tea, black tea to be precise, increases your creativity. After examining 50 participants, the study clearly showed that those who consumed black tea were definitely far more creative than those who didn’t. Not a fan of tea? Better yet — apparently, drinking small amounts of alcohol can increase your creativity as well. Research conducted by professors at the University of Illinois showed that participants who were intoxicated performed much better at creative tasks than the ones who didn’t drink a single drop of alcohol. The only problem with this solution would be to agree on what a “small” amount of alcohol is, but that’s up to your interpretation.
What you should do: Brew some tea and uncork a bottle of wine. Cheers to creativity!
Tags: Howto, Inspiration, Know how, Lifestyle, Research, Skills, Worklife