Creativity has a way of only finding us when we don’t need it, doesn’t it?
When it comes down to the times we need creative thinking and perspective the most, the mind has a way of freezing shut – offering nothing but a painful headache or unwanted frustration in return for our best efforts.
The following 3 approaches have proven themselves to be very effective when the creative chips are down. Try one, try them all on any given day when you need to think outside the box on an insurmountable problem that requires more abstract thinking than usual.
I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of putting myself into a mental trance while assuming some legs crossed, palms-facing-up, seated posture while humming like a patient from an insane asylum is the last thing I think of doing when creativity eludes me!
However, this process works quite well – if you give it a chance…
Just ask the Intel Corporation and their employee (and certified yoga instructor) Lindsey Van Driel. All Intel employees are required to take a 9-week course that teaches them how to effectively step back from their duties by using meditation practises designed to foster increase productivity in the company. Learn more about [email protected] in this HuffPost article. Google has a similar training program in place called the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute which includes a focus on meditation practices and mindfulness training.
2. Dictionary Game
The dictionary game is a tried-and-true creativity booster that’s sure to get the cogs in your mind spinning more freely! Here’s how it works: Grab a good ol fashioned dictionary, open it up to any old page and zero in on a random word. Alternatively, you can use a word of the day website or app, such as this or one of these.
Next, grab a pen and paper and write down everything that word makes you think of. Don’t pick and choose words; use the first word that you focus on. Also, don’t focus on making your thoughts/feelings about the specific word practical. If “orange” is your word, and it makes you think of cucumbers or makes you nostalgic about a time when you were young, write it down!
This exercise actually inhibits some of your creative freedom, forcing you to focus on just that one word. If your mind is feeling particularly cluttered, shoot for two or three random words and don’t move from one word to the next until you’ve completely exhausted every thought and feeling a particular word evokes.
Go back to the creative problem at hand afterward and see if the answer to it comes more freely.
3. Distance Yourself from the Present
Ah, I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do during meditation?” Actually, distancing yourself from the present in this instance is about creating psychological distance from your present creative dilemma by transporting yourself and your problem to a far off past or future date; say to 1967 California during the hippie era, or to the unknown future in 2029. Ask people questions while you’re there, ask them for advice about your current conundrum, make the scenario as vivid as you can.
Yes, this one is rather hokey too, but you have to get a little eccentric in order to escape the conventional restraints that so often stifle our creativity. Also called “spatial distance,” this creative practise allows you to see problems in a more abstract manner – making the problem more impossible to solve, less based in reality – which research has proved to actually result in more creativity when it comes to solving our mental conundrums (source).
If this seems complicated to grasp, consider that the method takes you out of present day reality and transports you and your problem or task to an unreal scenario. Since the entire past/future scenario isn’t “plausible”, your imagination (ie., right brain) is allowed to run free from analytical constraints (ie., left brain).
This interesting book, free on Google Books goes into even more detail about time perspective and how it improves creativity along with happiness, conceptual ability, memory retention and much more: Time Perspective Theory
Leave a quick comment and let me know what you think about these creativity-boosting methods. Though many of you may have experimented with certain forms of each with little or no success in the past, perhaps it’s time to try again and see if you’re not inspired some day when your imagination flat refuses to work.
Please let me know how it turns out if you do!