by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: President, Word Branch Publishing
After a particularly taxing few months, I was feeling extremely low on creativity. I was fatigued, and the ideas just weren’t coming. It wasn’t merely a case of writer’s block; it was all inspiration and creativity. I couldn’t even come up with original ideas for dinner.
What a frustrating feeling it was—I felt like I couldn’t work through it.
But then something very odd happened. I had to pick up a prescription in a nearby small town—a very ordinary place with an ordinary drug store. The day wasn’t very inspiring; it was chilly and overcast. Even the normally beautiful surrounding mountains were covered in a layer of clouds.
As I drove down our mountain road, I felt something shift in my perspective. I neared the town of Andrews, and ideas began popping into my mind. By the time I got my prescription and was driving home, my brain was buzzing with activity.
So why did this mundane activity make such a difference in my thought process, mood and production? And why didn’t my usual creativity boosters (walk in the woods, yoga, taking care of my plants) work? After a little research I came up with three strategies that will work for all creative types from artists to entrepreneurs.
But I’m the type that takes comfort in consistency. Just knowing that the sun will rise and my dogs’ schedule never changes makes me feel safe. I expected that when I did my research I would find that most experts suggest a change of scenery or routine to stimulate creativity—and that is exactly what happened. So my little trip to the drugstore was just enough change that it rebooted my creativity.
But to my surprise, I also found a very interesting study from Stanford that extols the value of consistency balanced with creativity:
“Creativity is responsible for innovation in ideas and products. Consistency is responsible for widespread use of ideas and products. What is important is to use each for its proper purposes.” ¹
So while that change of scenery may be essential for the development of an idea, consistency is necessary for the implementation. The article goes on to make the distinction between rote actions and consistency—it’s not the mindless repetition that is positive but the application of reliable actions.
2.Leadership and exchange of ideas:
One of the problems of telecommuting is that there is often little feedback and idea sharing. A recent study published in the Social Behavior & Personality Journal found that being exposed to others with similar goals can create a domino effect of creativity in group members.²
All well and fine, but how do those of us in solitary creative professions—art, writing, etc-- generate the same type of scenario? Since we don’t have immediate co-workers to gather with or often a boss who can supply the leadership to guide creative folks to the proverbial watering hole, it’s up to us to seek out our own groups.
I was on the right track by using yoga as a way to increase creativity. In Christine Buckenham’s article Creativity and Spirituality: Two Threads of the Same Cloth, she theorizes that there is an intrinsic connection between a spiritual life and creativity.³
Indeed, extreme creative spells are often compared to religious experiences—almost an out-of-body sensation. It’s a paradoxical awareness: an outward rush of creativity that feels like it originates in our core.
How to get there is highly individual and dependent on your own belief system. But whether you get there in a mosque, a sweat lodge, a cathedral, on a yoga mat or a mountain top at sunrise, letting the spirit of an outside force wash over you is a certain path to the creative spirit.
So what’s the key to unlocking our creativity? As I see it, it is a procession of activities and ideas. Keeping the mind, body and spirit active is essential, but so is the routine of polishing your craft. It’s feeding the soul with company of like minded people, but being open to the new ideas of others. It’s looking beyond the boundaries to discover what is within.
¹The Principle of Consistency and the Conditions for Creativity. Robert E. Horn
²CONTEXT AND CREATIVITY: THE THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOR AS AN ALTERNATIVE MECHANISM: JIN NAM CHOI
³Creativity and Spirituality: Two Threads of the Same Cloth: Karen Buckenham
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