A Simple Way to Boost Creativity
When I first planted a garden, I made a rookie mistake. I spent hundreds of dollars on organic compost and soil, and I bought the highest quality plants I could find. But then I planted each squash, cucumber, and tomato plant right along side the other.
My plants looked like organic skyscrapers crammed against each other, searching for enough sun to survive.
My rookie mistake? I didn’t give them space. Without the space to grow, my plants either died or under-produced. I ended up with shriveled eggplants, dried up tomatoes, and squash that never grew beyond the size of a golf ball.
I have found that the same principle holds for the creative process. Most of us habitually avoid space. We jam our calendars full of events. Even when we’re relaxing, we watch TV while simultaneously surfing the Internet or talking on the phone.
The pressures of the modern world combine with the endless stimulation of our digital tools to ensure that each moment is filled. The moments of our day become like my plants: so scrunched together that they cannot grow and create.
Some of the latest discoveries in neuroscience confirm the creative potential of open space – of unplanned and uninterrupted time. When we give ourselves space from constant stimulation and activity, the brain shifts to a “default state.” In this state, our perception changes. Time slows down, we daydream more, and, most important, we open ourselves to new and more creative ways of thinking.
So for this week’s experiment, let’s explore clearing space in the day for moments of creative expression to emerge.
This doesn’t mean that you should sit on your couch all day. But you can use the following practice to give yourself space for creative ideas to emerge:
Step 1 – Set An Intention – Before you open yourself to the spaciousness of unstructured time, set an intention. It might be a question: “What wants to happen through me today?” Or it might be a request: “I want to come up with a better way of thinking about X.” This intention will help channel the creative power of the space toward a particular idea, question, or theme.
Step 2 – Make Space – You might set aside an hour, a half hour, or 15-minutes. You might walk, lie down in the grass, or meditate. It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you give yourself a space from the constant activity and stimulation of everyday life.
Step 3 – Allow Creative Inspiration to Move – The goal is to stay open within the spaciousness – to let go of all that you think you know and open to deeper answers and unexpected insights to emerge. Use this time to go beneath habitual patterns in your thinking. Wait until you feel an opening in your thinking emerge. It might come in the form of a new song, idea, insight, or a solution to a problem you’ve never been able to solve. Once it hits, go all out. Allow yourself to get lost in the creative act of expression.
I wrote most of my latest book, Life Beyond Logic, using this practice. On some days, I would spend hours lying on the floor in silence or with music. I would simply wait for inspiration to hit. On some days, almost nothing came through. I just sat there waiting. On others, I felt a flood of new ideas flow through me.
What do you think? Is space the prerequisite to the flow of creative inspiration?