Many people aspire to be creative. Others may not think their pursuits require creativity; but solving problems at work, comforting a disappointed child, or generating ideas for new products or procedures all require creativity.
What fosters creativity? One artist describes the creative process as, “A mix of habits, drive, fear, curiosity, impatience, persistence, stubbornness, guilt, repetition and finally, pleasure in working with the materials.” Though it can vary from person to person, research and experience point to factors that enhance creativity.
Practicing methods such as deep breathing to calm mind and body is important. Creating is a higher-level brain function. Distractions, including frustrations with one’s creativity, can deplete brain energy that might otherwise aid the creative process.
Michael Hendrix of design firm IDEO says of his company, “We encourage people to eat well, get lots of rest, stay happy. Because as a creative person that’s when your best work happens. The tortured artist coming up with a great idea is actually a great myth.” (Boston Globe, 12/27/15)
Daniel Coyle, author of Talent Code, has discovered three factors associated with exceptional performers in areas such as the arts, which surely apply to the workplace. These are deep practice, keeping a successful role model in mind, and having a good coach. Deep practice involves putting in the hours as well as making mistakes, noticing them, and learning from them. (Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2012) Most can find a role model. Perhaps there is a mentor at work or in the same field who can act as a coach. Or maybe a business or life coach will fill the need.
Many edit themselves before they even get going. Research shows that people doing a creative task without knowing their work will be evaluated consistently produce more creative work than those who know. (Psychology Today May/June 2013) Debra Russell of Artist’s Edge Coaching once advised a writer to write 1,000 words/day badly to overcome perfectionism. It’s helpful to notice the internal voices judging the work and figure out how to neutralize them. Giving those voices a silly name is one way to defuse their power.
Some people rely on inspiration, others on perspiration, for creating work. Trial and error may illuminate what elements contribute to inspiration. Some prefer quiet; some thrive on noise and bustle. Some need solitude; others find collaboration, or simply being around others who are also working, indispensable. Some experts believe that brainstorming out with others who have divergent perspectives us is crucial. It’s also helpful to let the mind wander away from the problem when stuck, which allows solutions to emerge. (Psychology Today May/June 2013; Sian Beilock, Ph.D, author of Choke.)
Tips for an optimal home office can be adapted to the workplace. Setting a clear boundary from distractions is beneficial. For example, making specific times to check email or not being wired into personal social media. Though some seem to thrive in the chaos of papers piled high, reducing clutter helps. Going for a walk where there is even a little bit of nature (a street with some trees, for example) can have a surprisingly positive effect on productivity. Decorating the office or cubicle with the color bright sage may be beneficial, as this color seems to help the creative process. (Psychology Today, December 2015.)
Creativity makes the world go ‘round. Practicing what research, observation, and experience teach will reduce angst and improve results.
A version of this article appeared in Natural Awakenings Boston.
Karen Welling has a diverse background as a certified coach, licensed psychotherapist, workshop facilitator, performing musician, and former competitive athlete. She uses her training and experience from all these realms to create individualized coaching programs that enable professionals and others to achieve clarity and confidence in their pursuits and in periods of transition. Karen supplements coaching with techniques such as mindfulness, self-administered acupressure, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-Processing, which has been shown to foster rapid change and aid in peak performance).