What do you do when you’re struggling with a problem that requires a creative solution? If you’re like most people, you sit at your desk and think about the problem. You stare at your blank computer screen, chew on pencils, crumple up pieces of paper and take occasional breaks to pace or get another cup of coffee. But is that really the best way to unleash your creativity?
Some creative people can easily generate ideas anytime and anywhere. But if that isn’t you, there are things you can do to train your brain and get your creative juices flowing. If you want to perform at your creative peak, you need to identify how you can spark your creativity whenever you need it.
Falling Asleep and Waking Up
For some reason, sleep seems to bring out the creative ideas in many people. Maybe it has something to do with how the mind runs wild during the dream state. When you’re dreaming, there are no rules and your mind can really think outside the box.
Some get ideas while falling asleep at night while others find inspiration when they first wake up in the morning. If you find yourself dreaming up your best ideas, keep a notebook by the side of the bed so you can jot as soon as you wake up.
You might even try “programming” your dreams to come up with the solution you seek. Think about what you are trying to do, just before you fall asleep. Tell yourself you will come up with the solution during the night. Be prepared to write down or record the answer first thing in the morning or if you awaken during the night.
Talking with Friends and Colleagues
Have you ever noticed that on television detective shows, the detective will often be talking with someone about something completely unrelated to the case when he suddenly makes a connection that solves the mystery? Even though those shows are fiction, coming up with solutions to problems or creative ideas while talking about something unrelated is real.
Interacting with others is a great source of new ideas. When you discuss a problem with someone else, you ‘talk it out’ and often you can arrive at a good solution. You may get the idea or inspiration from something they say, or it may come out of your mouth during the discussion.
The people who inspire you don’t have to be colleagues or business partners. Conversation with anyone can help. In fact, talking with someone who knows nothing about your problem can generate unique ideas.
Quiet and Solitude
Ideas may also come to you while you are reading, meditating or otherwise enjoying silence. Many people meditate for the sole purpose of stimulating their creativity. They sit still and focus and the solution just seems to appear out of thin air.
Movement may help to stimulate your creativity. This is why long walks often produce great ideas. Some people find that exercise gets not only their blood but also their creative juices flowing. If this is the case for you, bring a handheld audio recording device or record your ideas quickly by phone as they come.
For some reason, the most mundane activities often bring forth creative ideas. You might be in the shower, running the vacuum cleaner or fishing at the lake, when suddenly a brilliant idea pops into your mind.
Brain scientists will tell you it is because when you are doing something monotonous and mindless, your mind starts to wander and your prefrontal cortex relaxes. And when you and your prefrontal cortex are both relaxed, your brain releases dopamine, boosting your creativity. Although you might have to be a brain scientist to fully understand the process, you don’t have to be one to take advantage of it. Just pop into the shower, relax and let you mind take over.
You will probably find that some of these methods work better than others for you. Give them a try and see when and how you get the best ideas. It might be when you are taking your morning shower, at a coffee break with a colleague, walking in the park after lunch or wherever and whenever your brain is free and relaxed.
Once you discover your prime creative time, use it. And always keep a notebook or recorder handy so the ideas don’t get lost.