Creativity is a sneaky sneak. It creeps up on us when we least expect it. Be it on a middle of the night shuffle to the kitchen for water, a chaotic commute, a fourth cup of coffee, a song that surprises you on Pandora, the sight of a pregnant cloud, the sound of a beer can rolling in the street, while eavesdropping, after sex, before breakfast, underwater, on a mountain, it's always showing up just as we put down pencils. The creativity bug doesn't always come when we call it. But one thing is for sure, when it calls for us, we come running.
While creativity is a heady concept — it's a feeling, a mental state, a spiritual guidance — it's also a physical concept. In fact, creativity can be charted in the brain. The effects it has on our bodies and the effects our bodily changes have on creativity are plenty and powerful. In the same way that stress is a feeling that causes negative physical affects, creativity is a feeling that graces us with its presence only when the physical environment of the brain is just right. That feeling of being possessed by a creative force is really just an acknowledgment of a shift in your brain chemistry.
When I was writing my first book, I'd often write multiple chapters before stopping to reread and edit. More often than not, when I'd finally go over my work, it read like a foreign voice. I had little recollection of actually writing what I was reading. It was as if my mind as I knew it went off for a nap while someone else came in to write some chapters. This phenomenon isn't my own. Artists have been referring to their creative possession as alter egos, maybe most recently identifiable in Beyoncé's Sasha Fierce album. This is all to say, creativity is such a strong, physical force, it litterally takes over our brain, briefly turning us into different versions of ourselves. So while we can't exactly give creativity a buzz and ask it to come out and play, we can some create conditions that appeal to creativity. Here are a few mind hacks that will make for conditions that creativity can thrives on:
They're real! Alpha waves help to solve insight problems and can be emitted during warm, relaxing activities. Help trigger their activity by soaking in a hot bath or shower.
Put a smile on your face
Neuroscientists have noticed links between happy people and creativity. When dopamine is present, creative is likely to follow. It's kinda like dopamine is a plate of cookies on Christmas eve, and creativity is Santa. Indulge in activities that make you happy and chose comedy over horror when you're looking for a movie.
Moderate, aerobic exercise can help fire up your brain activity and burn through any existing haze. Studies show that people who exercise regularly have a greater mental flexibility for creative solutions and concepts.
A little bit of ambient noise can open up the mind to abstract thinking. That kind of thinking can trigger creative, "a-ha!" thoughts. The best way to get your mind into an abstract state is to listen to a moderate amount of white noise. If it's too quiet, the mind is hyper-focused and that scares away creativity. If it's too loud, the mind is distracted. Play around with white noise and instrumental music.
Take advantage of your exhaustion
The mind has the ability to fire off creative thoughts when it's completely depleted. When you're exhausted and ready to fall asleep, try sitting in a chair with a pen and paper before getting into bed. Those moments before sleep might bring you some creative gold.