A Recipe for Creativity

| By Editorial Staff

light-bulb-idea-shutterstock_133551383-paid-ltd-use-06-10-2015We’ve heard all about the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and in fact we’re bound to hear more of it from the younger generation in coming years because the Seven Habits curriculum was part of Common Core. But what are the habits for being not so much effective as messy and jumbly; a big mixed-up pile of creativity? The answers might surprise you.

In the book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and Huffington Post Senior Writer Carolyn Gregoire advise that taking a shower is a perfect Step One.

Kaufman’s research, “in collaboration with the world’s largest showerhead supplier, Hansgrohe, found that 72 percent of people around the globe report experiencing new ideas in the shower. In fact, people reported that they are more likely to get fresh insights in the shower than at work!”

They go on to provide some compelling examples such as the fact that, “Woody Allen…says he regularly takes showers for inspiration, sometimes standing in the water for close to an hour to explore what’s going through his mind and to get those creative juices flowing.”

We’ve posted here previously about exercising to increase creativity and these authors agree. “Nikola Tesla had many great ideas, but one of his best occurred to him far from the laboratory: The inventor came up with his idea for alternating electric currents while out on a leisurely stroll.”

Then there’s the food you eat…one article advising which foods are best for igniting your creative genius provides the following suggestions:

  • Eat a complex carbohydrate, such as whole grain bread
  • Add a fatty acid in the form of walnuts, avocado, or olive oil
  • Throw in some dark chocolate for an antioxidant (or berries if you hate chocolate, or chocolate-covered berries for the best of both worlds)

Another regularly prescribed creativity-booster is an Inspiration Wall, either in your physical workspace or on your computer. A playlist might be thought of as an audio Inspiration Wall. Many authors recommend looking at pictures that inspire you, along with consuming poems, songs, and essays by favorite artists. Try a little Dillon to get your brain going, or pump up your senses with Mozart.

Once you’ve nourished both body and soul, you must come face to face with yourself and your own ideas. Author Mason Hipp tells us that, “equal parts of research and isolation are the backbone of creativity.”

While research is vital – not just to provide a glimpse into existing thought, but also to avoid reinventing the wheel – Hipp asserts that you have to balance exposure to others’ work by cutting yourself off from it. “In many situations, fully understanding the existing market, design trends, or whatever else can unintentionally taint your perspective on the creation of something new.” He advises, “Try both isolation and research…and see what works best in your situation.”

The payoff is significant, he says, since, “Creativity is quickly becoming the next currency in the business and design world. There are millions of places to outsource non-creative work, and it’s only the truly creative people who are not afraid of being replaced or outdated.”

Now then, you’re ready to go, toast and chocolate consumed, music fading to silence, and the last bit of dampness warming off your skin. It’s time to try some riffs of your own. Riff with a few words, draw a few lines, or hum a few notes if music is your mode of expression. It’s long been thought that great artistry begins by “priming the pump” with unintentional, random outbursts of creativity to get the flow started.

If necessary, you might give yourself a stopping place; either by setting a clock or scheduling an appointment. We’ve written before about how the imminence of a deadline forces creativity with a little last-minute burst of flight-or-flight to push you along.

The best gift you can give yourself is to develop a habit. This requires an actual goal and sticking to it. Stephen King famously suggested writing 1,000 words per day, which for an artist might equate to six sketches, a musician one page of music. Naturally each person is different, but don’t make the argument that you’re so different that you can’t have a plan. Old Ben Franklin’s adage is true that those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

So just as if you’re walking into your kitchen and getting out a mixing bowl, walk into your office or studio and get ready to create. Note that the studio is not a requirement – Kaufman and Gregoire report that Gertrude Stein drove around and chose a cow to sit next to as she worked each day. So be creative in planning your creativity – just plan it no matter what.

To recap:

  • 1 shower
  • 1 slice wheat toast with olive oil
  • 1 serving dark chocolate and/or berries
  • 1 good song or poem
  • 1 hour devoted to your art

Add an occasional stroll as necessary.