Sunday, June 29, 2014

Need Inspiration? 3 Simple Creativity Hacks

Giant Guitars at Austin Airport
On a recent trip I visited Austin, Texas, and was intrigued by the display of creativity that welcomed me to the baggage pickup area. Giant, colorful guitars -- a nod to the music for which Austin is known -- dot the luggage carousels, and create a sense of gaiety and fun for the weary traveler.
Adding a dash of creative thinking to your day can spark a host of new ideas. Many people grasp new ideas that emerge from their mind during the night. The mind is at rest; new ideas flow with ease. Without a jumble of emails and meetings clogging the mind, creativity has a clear path.
How many of us keep a notepad by the bed for those nocturnal ideas? Why not try it -- my last book title came to me during the night. Many writers know the value of this simple tactic to capture fleeting ideas.
During the day, it's easy to confuse busy-ness for productivity. But some of the most important discoveries have broken through during moments of daydreaming. These are the what-if moments that can change your life, or the lives of others, the spot where daydreaming meets creative thinking.
So, how can we replicate the early hour between sleep and wakefulness, when the mind plays with ideas and ah-ha moments emerge? How can we intentionally foster creativity every day?

Scientific Discoveries into Creativity

It's important to understand what occurs in the brain during the creative session. Scientific research supports the theory of freeing yourself from the "critic," which is essential to send your creativity soaring. Creativity is linked to the limbic center of the brain, the seat of emotions, memories, olfaction, and motivation.
National Institutes of Health researchers Charles Limb and Allen Braun have studied and performed brain imagery scans on jazz musicians, including composer David Kane. During creative thought -- in this case, jazz improvisation -- Limb and Braun discovered the limbic center of the brain is essentially unregulated and free of one's inner "critic." The postulated purpose of this deregulation is to create neurological support for the enhanced emotional state so vital to creativity.

How to Foster Creativity

Here are a few simple things you can do today -- or any day --  to enhance creative daydreams and rock your creativity:

Forest walk1. Take a walk.

Listen to the birds and the vast space of nature. Watch a sunrise or a sunset. In the city? Plug in headphones with instrumental music. Some of my favorites for conjuring creativity are jazz, classical, piano, or guitar solos.
Visit a museum, a park, a botanical garden, or simply walk through a new neighborhood. The key is to change your routine, stimulate your senses with different visual, auditory, and olfactory inputs. The limbic center of the brain is positively enhanced by new sensations.
Struggling with a problem? Many of the world's greatest thinkers and tinkerers are known to step out to clear the mind. 
Writer Stephen King is an avid walker, and Noël Coward famously said: I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me."

Coffee with heart to enhance creativity2. Take a time-out.

Busy schedule? Set an appointment with yourself. You'd never leave an important client meeting to chance, so why not give yourself the same courtesy? 
Set an appointment to write, daydream, sketch out a fresh idea. Even better, take yourself away on a mini-break. My favorite places include the beach, the mountains, or a new cafe. 
Can't break away? Meditation can have a similar beneficial effect on creativity.
I've literally dreamed up books and businesses in my sleep, captured them on a notepad by my bed, and fleshed out ideas and plans during long walks or swims.
Or, like the jazz musicians, engage in an activity that frees the mind. It might be playing or listening to music, painting, or taking up a favorite sport. I've had fantastic ideas emerge while gliding down snowy hillsides on skis, or listening to the rhythmic lap of the ocean at night. If you're feeling overwhelmed, it might be time for a recharging mini-break. Even a coffee break can refresh the spirit.

3. Take a bath.

Too cold outside for a walk? No problem, water therapy is a favorite method to relax the mind and body. If you have children underfoot, this is a fine way to unwind after they're in bed. A long shower can accomplish the same thing. While you're at it, give yourself a nice facial, or pour a glass of wine.
The key is to take yourself out of your normal routine and pamper yourself. A mind at rest is a creative mind. Like Archimedes, plenty of people have had a "eureka!" moment in the tub.

Creativity in Action

For me, the first half of this year has been an intense period of creation, with new fiction books underway and a new business in the pipeline. 
During this busy period, I'm walking on the beach almost every day, alone or sharing insights with my husband away from the office and the house. This simple change of scenery clears our mind of the mundane and opens a portal to a plethora of new ideas and creative thinking so essential to creative production.
As an author and entrepreneur, I've learned the importance of recharging the creative batteries. Small time-outs, taken regularly, can yield large results. What are your favorite creativity hacks?


Sue Coletta said...

I often get my best ideas in the shower. I never understood why. Now it all makes sense. Thank you, Jan. I think I'll take that trip to the lake my husband has been pestering me to take. Who knows, maybe I'll come up with a fantastic new character or a premise for a new book. Be rest assured, your advice will not be wasted on me.

Unknown said...

Hi Sue, glad to give you a nudge! I'm off to walk on the beach and dream up my next novel :)

Unknown said...

A long soak in the tub is a good idea :)

Conrad Tuerk Jr. said...

Nice list, Jan.

I'll add a fourth: limit internet use. It can become my black hole, a huge drain on time and creative energy.

Unknown said...

You're right, Conrad. Good idea for creatives to tackle their creative work first in the day.