The science bit: 3 steps to boost creativity

As a freelance writer I’m under more or less constant pressure to come up with creative ideas, unusual angles and compelling ways to deliver information. When the information is intrinsically dull, it’s an even bigger challenge.

On the bright side I’m naturally creative, a painter and maker as well as a writer. The psychometric tests I’ve taken during job interviews show I’m particularly good at making unexpected connections between disparate ideas. I understand the science behind creativity too, which helps no end. If I run dry, which sometimes happens, I know exactly how to unblock that creative potential.
How does it work? If you’re into quality content creation but keep getting writer’s block, here’s the science bit.

How to get your creative juices flowing?

Where do creative light bulb moments come from, and can you make them happen to order? Yes, you can. But it helps if you have a creatively-biased brain in the first place. Experiments by the neuroscientist John Kounos of Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA, reveal some brains are better set up for creativity than others.
He hooked people up to an EEG scanner and measured what was happening when they were thinking about “nothing in particular”. The results revealed naturally higher levels of ‘right brain’ activity in the temporal lobes of those who preferred to solve problems using insight rather than logic. The findings hint that creativity might be inherited. It certainly rings true in our family, with highly creative female family members going back several generations.
Despite this, there are ways to boost creativity even if you’re much more of a logic monster than an intuitive type. Here they are.

3 scientifically proven steps to greater creativity

If you’ve ever niggled away at a problem for hours on end to no avail then had a blinding flash of inspiration much later while you’re cooking the dinner/walking the dog/watching telly/at the gym, you’ll appreciate this. The moment you let go of the issue, the solution pops into your head out of nowhere. It seems like magic, but you can control it. Here’s how to make it happen in three simple steps:

  1. First, feed your brain with the fine detail of the problem you’re facing so your unconscious mind has all the relevant information it needs to work with. It’s important to focus hard on the details to make sure they stay put. Caffeine helps because it improves our focus.
  2. Once the details are safely stored in your noggin, it’s time to relax and do something completely different. You might sit in the garden for ten minutes, something I do a lot. Or go for a short walk, hit the shops, even watch a few cute kitten videos. Apparently being in a relaxed, happy frame of mind is much more conducive to creativity than being stressed, vexed and wound up, so let it lie!
  3. It also helps to focus less at this stage. If your problem is a real toughie, you might want to leave it until later when your brain is exhausted. Tired brains really are more creative. Studies show morning people are at their most creative late at night when they’re knackered and their brain is all fuzzy, and night owls have their best creative ideas early in the morning when they’re the direct opposite of what we usually think of as their ‘best’.

The future of creative brain stimulation? Zap it!

At the moment that’s all you can do. But it’s remarkable how effective such a simple method can be. In my experience it works every time, without fail. My SEO consultant husband does it too, and he finds it equally useful.
In future, however, the creatively challenged might be able to stimulate their brains with electricity, temporarily boosting activity in the right temporal lobe and zapping it in the less creative left. In scientific studies, stimulating people’s brains in this way, effectively short-cutting the natural process I’ve talked about, drove a massive 40% hike in their problem solving abilities.

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