We’ve all had the experience: You’re at your desk, think-think-thinking about a sentence, an image, a concept you can’t get from your brain to the page. You go downstairs to make another cup of coffee or wash the dishes and the solution comes to you. Turns out, there’s a reason for that. As Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire write in Wired to Create (2015), “interruptions and diversions can help that all-important creative incubation period. ‘In other words, a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution,'” they quote Harvard psychologist Shelley H. Carson saying.
So don’t be afraid to leave your desk when all you’re accomplishing is denting your head by hitting it on the keyboard. Don’t stay away too long, of course — discipline has a role, too. But we’ll save that topic for another time!
“Falling in love with a dream is frequently the starting point [for boosting creative performance]. Then, people who fulfill their creative dreams over the long haul balance optimism about the future with realistic strategies for getting closer to their goals; inspiration with hard work; and dreaming with doing.”
— Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire in Wired to Create (2015)
In Wired to Create (2015), Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire note the connection between mindfulness, described by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer as “the act of paying attention to the present moment,” and creativity. “People always think they’re aware, but they’re not,” Langer said. In her book Mindful Creativity, they note, “Langer suggests that doing creative work is itself a practice in mindfulness.
“‘In noticing new things about the topic you’re considering to write, photograph, or paint about, you’re being creative,’ she says. ‘By noticing new things about a topic, you see … that the thing you thought you knew is different—everything looks different from different perspectives.'”
So challenge yourself to pay more attention to what’s around you. Note one thing, one juxtaposition or contrast, that you don’t remember noticing before. When you go to do your creative work, make it a practice to bring that thing, that attentiveness with you.