On the surface, the notion of “creativity” sounds elusive. Coming up with a unique insight to produce an idea, song, poem or solution to a problem feels like a task meant for a blessed few. We usually reserve the term for people of the ilk of Steve Jobs—the inventor, Ludwig van Beethoven—the musician, Walt Whitman—the poet, or Elon Musk—the problem solver.
Such people always seem to be far beyond the reach of the ordinary. Their inventions and creations appear to be inspired from a world beyond the reality that we know, and their creative talents seem mysterious, to say the least. Some may even opine that these people are born with a special creative ability.
Yet, recent research on creativity indicates that our genes account for only 10 percent of being creative. The rest of it is learned, acquired, or dared. And there are clues about how you can navigate the journey to this hallowed ground too.
1. Abandon the question, “How?”
The first clue is a paradox unto itself, as it simply requires abandoning the question, “How should I become creative?” When you abandon this question, you stop trying to follow the way of others, and search instead for your own path to creativity. And you can start this internal search by building unfocus times into your day.
At baseline, your brain uses 20 percent of the body’s energy at rest—effort tacks on only another 5 percent. So when you’re sleeping, napping, or lyingin a hammock,your brain is busy shuttling ideas around, recombining them, and setting you up to be the creative person that you can be. If you want to become creative, you may need to build more of these “off” periods into your day.
Going for a walk outside, and allowing your mind to wander will most certainly count. At lunch, after lunch, mid-afternoon or at the end of a workday, this will get your creative juices flowing as your brain will switch to “time machine” mode, activating old and intangible memories—even fragments of them—putting puzzle pieces together, and then creating a creative template in your mind that you can build on.