The idea that you’re either creative or you’re not is simply untrue. Waiting around all day for the spark of an idea, or the right mood to start a project, will only result in a lot of time wasted.
Jonah Leher assembled 10 “Creativity Hacks” based on scientific research and case studies of famous artists and thinkers for his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works.
Creativity is not magic, and there’s no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it.
We’ve condensed Leher’s tips here, with a few ideas from our own research.
Look around your office. Drab, oatmeal-colored walls are doing your creative mind no favors. Leher cites research that shows blue to be calming–perfect for solving insight problems. Red makes us more alert, and stimulates our analytical side. The colors you wear also send a message to others, and can make you feel more in control.
When you’re pulling an all-nighter and have a sudden, brilliant idea, or awake ungodly early and realize the solution to a problem in the shower, that’s brain science, not coincidence. Writes Belle Beth Cooper:
The reason behind this is that a tired brain struggles to filter out distractions and focus on one thing. It’s also more likely to wander off on tangents. While that seems like a bad thing when you’re working, creative thinking actually benefits from distractionsand random thoughts. Research has shown that we’re better at “thinking outside the box” at our non-optimal times.
Spending time in a wistful trance seems more counterproductive than creative, but daydreaming can bring to light new ideas and space for your mind to wander. Not allowing yourself time to daydream hinders creativity, studies show.
Humor releases your inhibitions. Have you ever been in a brainstorming group where a hysterical conversation is happening, and the ideas just keep rolling–great or totally absurd? Laughter quiets the judgmental frontal lobe, freeing our zaniest (and best) ideas.
Physical space cramps our creativity just as much as mental blocks. That’s not to say every office should ditch the cubicles for an open plan, but designing a workspace that brings positive, relaxed emotions can make a huge difference in the flow of ideas.
The environment outside of your office can be just as important as the oasis you’ve created for work. Studies show that people who travel the world, experience new cultures, and live in a diverse metropolis are more creative, Leher says. Can’t afford to hop a flight to Italy? Explore a nearby town or neighborhood that you’ve been to.
Participants in creativity studies who were asked to imagine themselves as children, or imagine their puzzles came from a far away country, scored higher on creativity.
If you can’t break out of the boring workspace, move to a fun new city, or surround yourself with open-minded people, simple imagining a new identity lets you work outside of the box.
[h/t: the Wall Street Journal]