When are you most creative?

Recently I was asked to deliver a presentation at a conference coming up at the end of April. I don’t typically turn down opportunities to take a trip and talk about something of interest to me, so I agreed. The topic was in the neighborhood of my comfort zone, but not exactly on the same street if you know what I mean.

I sat down and started putting the presentation together and realized I had no idea what I wanted to talk about or what direction I wanted to take the slides. The time seemed to drag on over a couple of evenings while sitting in my favorite creative spot in the house, i.e. sitting on the floor with my back against the couch in front of the TV. The problem wasn’t the desire, but rather the approach. It felt forced. It’s much easier to be productive when you have something in mind and are working toward that goal. Creativity on the other hand seems to flow when you give your brain some time to rest and focus not on the task at hand, but something you enjoy.

Anyway, I forced myself to put the presentation aside and forget about it. Fast forward several days to the weekend and I’m sitting in a convention center in Sacramento watching my daughter’s cheer competition; nothing unusual about that. During a break in the action the MC was talking about something and made a small gesture with his hand. For reasons beyond my comprehension it sparked a thought that ended with me coming up with the content for the presentation I was working on. When I got back to the hotel that night I quickly hammered out the outline for the presentation and filled in the content a few nights later.

What’s the moral of the story? It’s really quite simple: creativity isn’t something you can “think about” or force. It usually comes when you’re doing something you enjoy or when you take the time to quiet your mind. The typical work day is full of distractions that lead not to creativity, but productivity. As strange as that may sound it’s true. So I encourage everyone to take some time to simply “zone out” and let your mind wander. It’s worth it.

 

2 thoughts on “When are you most creative?”

  1. Great post Jay, you can sure tell we’re brothers. Scary, really.

    I need some quiet time, like a vacation. I think that would help me tremendously.

  2. I think either giving yourself time for unforced reflection and/or consciously disengaging your brain to allow for more organic thought can lead to leaps forward in creativity. In our current society, which glorifies the cult of multi-tasking and serial deadlines, it can seem hard to indulge in this ‘luxury’. Finding its sweet spot can be trial-and-error, but I think it is worth exploring. My earlier (brief) thoughts on this are here: http://bit.ly/i7RU05

    Kevin

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