Just as any plant needs a specific setting in which to strive, your mind needs a nurturing environment in which to maximize its creative abilities. The right creative environment will vary from person to person. Use these ideas to find yours:
Choose the best atmosphere. T.M. Amabile says that people are more creative and imaginative when they spend time around other creative folk. Hang out with people whose thinking inspires you. Find locations that energize you (Starbuck? Mine is State Library, surrounded by books already make me think smart and creatively). Play music that puts you in your desired mental state (Mine is Jason Mraz’s songs!). Paint your study walls your favourite colour. Experiment to find the atmosphere that most seems to free your mind.
Give yourself time to “sit” with a question. Rushing can stifle your creative ability. When you allow time for thought to percolate, or you take breaks when figuring out a problem, you may increase your creative output. Change your environment, get some exercise, sleep; talk with a friend, work on something else. Some of the best ideas pop up when you have given your brain permission to go “off the job” for a while.
Let yourself play. People often hit upon their most creative ideas when they are exercising or just relaxing. Often when your mind switches into play mode, it can more freely generate new thoughts. Mental play can allow you to find a brilliant discovery in what seems like a crazy idea. For example, the idea for VelcroTM came when an inventor examined how a burr sticks to clothing.
Write it down. Many people think of ideas while exercising, driving, or in the shower, upon walking, or even while dreaming. When an idea occurs – a solution to a problem or a new thought – write it down as soon as possible. To make sure your creative environment includes a way to write ideas, try keeping a pen and paper by your bed, your smartphone in your pocket (Do we need a reminder?), a marker attached to your notebook, or a notepad and pen in your car. Try it, make it a habit!
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)
References and Suggested Readings:
1. Roger von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head (1998)
2. J.R. Hayes, Cognitive Psychology: Thinking and Creating (1978)
3. T.M. Amabile, The Social Psychology of Creativity (1983)