[Seems every where I go, there’s pressure to hurry up and do more … photo I took at the Loveless Caf© outside of Nashville, Tennessee, 2006 — JoAnn Braheny]
Here’s a big thank you to Douglas E. Welch, who forwarded the below post to me via Feedburner — an excellent article written by Carmine Coyote.
It’s a great reminder, especially in today’s world … for when ideas just won’t flow smoothly. I especially love what she says about reading and daydreaming.
Here’s Carmine’s article:
If You Want to be More Creative, Give Yourself More Time
In all the discussion about creativity, one subject that rarely occurs is time: the necessity of giving yourself enough time to allow the creative process to happen. Maybe we’re too influenced by the Hollywood idea of the sudden flash of brilliant insight, so we ignore the patient period of thinking and ruminating essential for any flash of inspiration to happen. Given the rush in today’s world, and the constant demands for instant gratification, we’re in danger of becoming steadily less creative–right when we need it most.
Getting creative ideas takes far longer than people usually allow. It’s not the idea itself–that may come in an instant–it’s the preparation, plus the time needed afterwards to check it out, explain it to others, and turn it into a practical plan of action. Creativity isn’t something that you can ignore for years, then expect to be able to switch on right away. It needs practice, nurturing, fuel, time to grow, time to allow the basic ingredients to swirl around inside your head in chaotic form, until one day something clicks and the idea is there.
The first requirement for creative thinking is fuel: knowledge, information, concepts, facts from many sources, different perspectives, shifting viewpoints. You need time to read–then read some more. Nothing gives better fuel for the “creative juices” than reading. Nothing is more effective in helping you to learn, to think, to reflect, and to internalize all the ingredients that will, one day, come together in some new and unexpected way. The general lessening of time spent reading is the direct cause of most of the obvious problems we have with limited thinking and stunted imaginations. The Internet is a great research tool. Lectures, talks, TV documentaries, and videos have their place. But nothing, nothing beats reading. If you want to be creative, read as much and as often as you can. There’s no better way to stimulate your mind. Show me a home free of books and I’ll show you people with little or no spark of creative thought in their heads.
Next, you need time to find those unexpected links between ideas, thought patterns, or areas of knowledge that are the bedrock of innovation. The brain finds it hard to hang on to disconnected pieces of information. Unlike a computer, it doesn’t cope well with large amounts of more or less random data. What it does best is to see connections, ways of linking information together into patterns in place of independent pieces of data. Remembering a principle and applying it is far easier to do that recalling a fact. This process is always slow. It’s still slower when we are searching for connections that are new or unexpected. Do we see innovative links instantly? Usually not. It takes time to find and register them fully, then understand them well enough to grasp their potential for changing the way we do things or see our world.
You will also need time to prioritize these budding ideas and choose which ones are worth more attention and energy. Doing this in a rush risks making mistakes, missing good ideas, and wasting effort on those that soon run into the sand. Creative thoughts don’t come in neat packages. They arrive mixed with other thoughts or notions that aren’t what you are looking for. You need time to sort them out.
Checking your growing ideas, researching, and creating sensible plans for implementation also take time. You aren’t going to be successful with every creative thought or idea every time. Many will fizzle out, or prove to be more difficult–and provide fewer benefits–than appeared at first. You need to “noodle” around, trying them out, adapting, extending, combining, and dropping poor ideas in favor of better ones. Until you start to explore how a creative thought might work in practice, you can’t see clearly which are going to be worth taking further.
Most of all, you need time to daydream. I’m not talking about sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. That’s a romantic idea that bears no relation to what genuinely creative people do. In all those “gaps” where they appear to be doing nothing at all, the world’s outstanding creative minds are hard at work below the surface: reflecting, ruminating, “noodling” with odd ideas, daydreaming possibilities, and tinkering with patterns and unexpected connections. What you see is the tiniest tip of a mental iceberg: nearly all the activity that brought it about is hidden below the surface. Time spent day-dreaming, or running over intriguing ideas in your head, is the “soil” in which creative ideas grow.
How do you make this time? The simplest way is to arrange your day to stop wasting so much of the time you already have. To-do lists and similar organizational tools can help, but they mostly make it easier to recall objectives and track tasks, by putting them into some kind of order. Useful stuff, but not critical to creativity. Finding more time for creativity needs you to recognize how much garbage doesn’t need to be on your calendar or to-do list at all. Many items can simply be dumped: pointless meetings, reading and sending endless e-mails, wasting time on reports designed to cover someone’s backside, or team co-ordination meetings when there’s nothing to co-ordinate. Have nothing to do with Instant Messages. Stop people copying you on e-mails of no consequence. Don’t waste time gossiping or swapping e-mail jokes. Turn your cellphone off sometimes. Refuse to become a slave to a BlackBerry. There’s plenty of time really, so long as you stop allowing it to be frittered away on rubbish like this. Set aside time to think and defend it as ferociously as a lioness defends her cubs.
Most people don’t achieve anywhere near their full creative potential just because they never give themselves time to do so. They’re so conditioned to quick action that they give up on fresh thinking long before it has any chance to develop. Don’t make the same mistake.
One of the worst aspects of modern life is the constant hurry. Not only does it create stress and tension, it goes a long way to making us all seem dumber and less creative than we are. If you want to get your brain going, slow down . . . and give it some time and space to work.
(Now you’ll know why I don’t answer your email so quickly! – JoAnn Braheny)