How to Encourage Creativity

If you do creative work, have you ever suffered from a creative block and been stuck wondering what exactly is wrong, and how you can get yourself out of it?

When it comes to creativity, one of our biggest concerns is usually how we can be more creative, or come up with better ideas.

All of these studies are useful for everyday creativity in daily life, so try a few out for yourself and see which ones work best for you.

 

1. Restrict yourself

Later on I will show you how external restrictions can hurt creativity, but right now I’m talking about internal restrictions, which can actually be used to boost creativity!

The research shows that an insidious problem that many people have is that they will often take the path of “least mental resistance,” building on ideas they already have or trying to use every resource at hand.

The thing is, the research also suggests the placing self-imposed limitations can boost creativity because it forces even creative people to work outside of their comfort zone (which they still have, even if they are a bit “weirder” than most).

One of the most famous examples is when Dr. Seuss produced Green Eggs & Ham after a bet where he was challenged by his editor to produce an entire book in under 50 different words.

I’m no Dr. Seuss, but I’ve found (and I’m sure other writers can relate) that when I’m suddenly restricted to writing something in 500 words when I had planned to write it in 800 words, it can lead to some pretty creative workarounds.

Try limiting your work in some way and you may see the benefits of your brain coming up with creative solutions to finish a project around the parameters you’ve set.

 

2. Re-conceptualize the problem

One thing that researchers have noticed with especially creative people is that they tend to re-conceptualize the problem more often than their less creative counterparts.

That means, instead of thinking of a cut-and-dry end goal to certain situations, they sit back and examine the problem in different ways before beginning to work.

So, if you find yourself stagnating by focusing on generic problems (“What would be something cool to paint?”), try to re-conceptualize the problem by focusing on a more meaningful angle (“What sort of painting evokes the feeling of loneliness that we all encounter after a break-up?”).

 

3. Create psychological distance

While it’s long been known that abstaining from a task (again, more on that later) is useful for breaking through a creative block, it also seems that creating “psychological” distance may also be useful.

Subjects in this study were able to solve twice as many insight problems when asked to think about the source of the task as distant, rather than it being close in proximity.

Try to imagine your creative task as being disconnected and distant from your current position/location. According to this research, this may make the problem more accessible and can encourage higher level thinking.

 

4. Daydream… and then get back to work!

Although study after study confirms that daydreaming and napping can help with the creative thought process, there is one piece of research that everybody seems to leave out…

One study in particular shows that the less work you’ve done on a problem, the less daydreaming will help you.

That is, daydreaming and incubation are most effective on a project you’ve already invested a lot of creative effort into.

So before you try to use naps and daydreams as an excuse for not working, be honest with yourself and don’t forget to hustle first!

 

5. Embrace something absurd

While I’ll be covering the case for “weird” experiences in more detail later on, for now you need to know that the research suggests that reading/experiencing something absurd or surreal can help boost pattern recognition and creative thinking.

(Subjects in the study read Franz Kafka, but even stories like Alice in Wonderland have been suggested by psychologists)

The conclusion was that the mind is always seeking to make sense of the things that it sees, and surreal/absurd art puts the mind in “overdrive” for a short period while it tries to work out just exactly what it is looking at or reading.

I like reading interesting short stories like The Last Question or browsing absurdist art at places like r/HeavyMind when I’m looking for some inspiration.

 

6. Create during a powerful mood

For a long time, the research has pointed to happiness as being the ideal state to create in.

Recently though, a relatively new study (2007) on creativity in the workplace made this bold conclusion: Creativity increased when both positive and negative emotions were running high…

The implication seems to be that while certain negative moods can be creativity killers, they aren’t as universal as positive moods (joy, being excited, love, etc) in that sometimes they may spur creative thinking rather than hinder it.

I don’t want you to put yourself in a bad mood to create something, but next time you’re in a strong emotional state, try to sit down and focus that energy on creating something, the end result could be worthwhile.

 

This article has been edited and condensed for the DI

Original by Gregory Ciotti