The other day I sat down and read the book “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon.
The book is filled with advice on creativity and maximizing opportunities for problem solving. It gave me a chance to sit back and reflect on my process, something I’ve never put much thought into in the past. Additionally, it made me think on how we utilize creativity not just for art and music, but everyday problem solving.
Who needs creativity
One parent figuring out how to load a toddler and two infants in a car.
A logistics employee attempting to balance working days and base locations based off someones specific needs.
Preventing a dog from barking at the amazon delivery driver (every….time).
While idea generation is often personal for each individual, I figured I would highlight some ideas borrowed (ripped off) of professional creators.
The other day I jumped out of the shower and ran to grab my phone. My wife, concerned I was dissecting my aorta, asked what the hell was going on. “Don’t talk to me, I have an idea!” I exclaimed as I jotted down my Nobel piece prize winning idea.
Why does it always feel like an idea hits you at the most inconvenient time? Because its the most convenient time for your brain.
The average person receives 65-80 notifications from their phone in a day 1. These notifications, while fulfilling a reward center in our brain, can hamper our ability for free thought. Constant interruption reduces the opportunity for our brain to explore deep thought.
So how to we fix this?
The most logical explanation is to turn off any electronic device. However, I’m definitely not doing this and most of us won’t. We need connection to the world in order to meet obligations for work, figure out when to pick up our kid or remember our next meeting time. We can, however, adjust the frequency of interruptions we receive in a day.
The first way is to carve out a time where you cannot bring electronics with you. The most logical one your morning shower. No one will blame the person who says “sorry I didn’t pick up, I was in the shower.”
The second, and most producible way, is to reduce notifications.
Duke University performed a study on batching notifications with willing participants. They divided them into 3 groups-usual (always “on”), batched (3 times a day notifications come through), never (notification system never goes off). 2
The batched group had the greatest benefit with feelings of being “more attentive and productive”
We can simulate the same idea with the “Do not Disturb” feature on cell phones. Need to solve a problem? Come up with a new idea for a talk? Turn on do not disturb. You can customize which notifications come through in case you are on call or desire to hear from your mother in law, but that also may detract from the original point.
The logical starting location for creativity is the idea. Unfortunately, we often focus on finding “the idea”, or the one that can solve our problem at hand. While this makes logical sense, it narrows our mind and can reduce our changes of opening up to new potential.
Pixar, the creator of some pretty cool stories, uses the “What if?” method. Here’s some cool examples from movies you may know:
Often the wildest What if can bring a real problem solving idea. Relating back to scheduling,
“What if everyone just scheduled themselves?”
Not possible where I work! Okay, definitely, but what if this leads to a new way to provide availability?
Write it down
Rick Rubin is a well known record producer for some well known names like Jay Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eminem.
I listened to an interview he did on the Joe Rogan podcast. Part of the interview was spent detailing the process for artists and where they pulled their ideas from.
One of the coolest details related to Eminem and how he incessantly writes ideas and rhymes in notebooks he carries around with him. Even if most of the ideas, phrase or rhymes never make it into the next song, he jots it down. While carrying a notebook and pencil has a pretty cool old school vibe to it, a phone app may be more convenient for you. iPhone has notes, which offers some basic features and allows you to quickly jot those ideas down. I personally use an app called Todoist because it works across all of my devices. Whatever works for you, write it down!
Make the time
We don’t learn to play guitar, write code or read a favorite book without carving out time for it. The key is not only setting aside some time to create, but finding the time that works.
People will often say “man, I wish I could be more creative, I just can’t find the time.” Then you gather a quick rundown of their schedule. “Well, I drop off the kids at school at 8am, head into work, grab lunch around noon then after work I’m usually shuffling my kids around or attending a late meeting. By the time I get home I’m exhausted.” What if you went to sleep 30 minutes before your usual time and woke up 30 minutes earlier the next morning? Imagine a completely quiet home, free from distraction. Now, I’m not saying everyone should be a morning person, the key is just to cave out that time. Try early morning, afternoon, evening and see what fits your personality!
I became sensitive of my creative space being the shower. Wondering if I was an abnormality, I reached out to some of the FOAMfrat team to see where they get their most creative thoughts and work done. The results are super interesting and unfortunately proved I was the weird one out.
Feeling inspired? I can't wait to see what you create!
1. Loria, K. (n.d.). There's a better way to get smartphone notifications that makes people less stressed - and it doesn't require eliminating them all. Business Insider. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-improve-smartphone-notifications-2018-4#:~:text=The%20average%20person%20gets%20between,recent%20American%20Psychological%20Association%20Conference.
2. Scholars@Duke. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://scholars.duke.edu/display/pub1402953