The Challenge of Creativity: 5 Tips in 5 Minutes

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016 by Laurel

Sometimes when I’m trying to create content for clients (or write blog posts, as the case may be), I come up empty. Creativity—where did it go? Where did I leave all those great ideas I had in the shower? And why did I just spend twenty minutes watching cat videos on YouTube?

Turns out that the best road to creativity is not the nose-to-the grindstone approach. Researchers have shown that keeping your conscious mind busy with enjoyable, unrelated tasks can help prime your brain for the work ahead. In his book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, psychologist Richard Wiseman outlines some ways to engage your subconscious:

  • Work on a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku square
  • Look through a magazine or at modern art
  • Lie on the ground and look at your workspace from a different perspective
  • Spend time caring for plants (in a garden or on your desk)
  • Pick up an ordinary object (pencil, cup, paper clip) and imagine new uses for it

All of these small acts of creativity will relaxingly prime your brain for work. They are ways of distracting the conscious part of your mind, which is quick, clever, not particularly innovative, but difficult to get out of your head. When the conscious mind is occupied, your creative unconscious has the time and space to play. The unconscious mind is capable of wonderful ideas, but they are often difficult to access. As Wiseman says,

Genuine creativity can come from spending just a few moments occupying your conscious mind, thus preventing it from interfering with the important and innovative activity in your unconscious. Everyone can be more creative—it is just a matter of keeping the loud guy [the conscious mind] in your head busy and giving the quiet guy [your unconscious] a chance to speak up.

Spend 59 seconds on something fun. When you return to your work, you’ll have a fresh perspective and a better attitude.

I love visual art, so this week I’m looking at collages, which rely on the juxtaposition of images in a surprising way to generate new meaning. They’re designed to provoke a sense of unconventionality and unconsciously inspire the viewer to become more creative. Here’s an image from one of my favorite collage artists, Ginger Mayerson:


It’s an untitled piece, so creating an appropriate title is my go-to exercise right now.

Remember, creative minds generate creative content!


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