It’s an exhilarating thought to wake every day and recognize that you will define the work that you do that day, that you are in control of your destiny, that you can impact your community directly through your decisions. You can bring solutions to problems and color to dark corners.
As creative entrepreneurs, we have a tremendous amount of potential and power to affect change through our ability to generate divergent ideas and through our power-house industriousness.
Sometimes the industriousness steps all over the idea generation though. We can become so busy with getting things done that we suddenly realize that we’ve run out of creative steam. And nothing is so frightening to someone who relies on creativity for her livelihood than believing it has dried up.
The good news is that your fountain of creativity is endless. You just have to prime the pump sometimes, and research has provided some solid clues on how to do that.
Creativity is a very specific way of thinking, and creative geniuses tend to share certain experiences that scientists believe may enhance their divergent thinking skills.
Creative geniuses often experience conflicting emotions.
Remember the last difficult project that you took on? The feeling of excitement as you sought out unique solutions and the sense of frustration as new obstacles presented themselves? That emotional ambivalence triggers increased sensitivity to other unusual relationships, according to research scientist Christina Fong of Carnegie Mellon University.
They seek out new experiences.
Whether reading in fields unrelated to their own or accepting invitations into the unknown, creative geniuses actively seek out new experiences. And like the experience of conflicting emotions, the experience of novel atmospheres and activities primes the mind to be on the lookout for what cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman calls “a violation of how things are supposed to happen.”
And they give pesky problems the cold shoulder.
That’s right. Creative geniuses don’t spend days straining their brains against stubborn problems. They put them aside and do other things – totally unrelated things. This is where the idea of “eureka in the bathtub” comes from. Often, our insistence upon working on a problem long after our brain has reached its state of exhaustion actually prevents us from making a breakthrough. Stepping away, taking a break, thinking about other things, gives your brain a chance to work things out without all the pressure.
With all of that in mind, here are a few suggestions from Candelita for those days when your creative genius decides not to show up for work.
Try a new restaurant.
New York boasts thousands of restaurants of every imaginable variety. Try something new on your next lunch break – Moroccan tagine or Japanese octopus ball. In fact, don’t wait until lunch. Treat yourself to Italian cream cake at seven in the morning. Definitely eat it at a table with a window view where you can watch other people go to work. You’ll have a new experience, something else to think about, and conflicting emotions all in one – the delicious guilt of dessert for breakfast.
Hit your local amusement park.
If you’ve got a Coney Island equivalent, step away from your drawing board and go there. You’ll be inundated by the scent of cotton candy, the sounds of seagulls and jangled carousel music. In short, this is the optimal sensory experience to get your creative conflict stirred up.
Visit an offbeat museum.
Art museums are great for jarring the mind, but larger cities like New York have hundreds of smaller, stranger museums that will raise plenty of previously uncontemplated ideas. Try the Mmuseumm, a former freight elevator filled with sundry strange artifacts of modern life, or Walter de Maria’s Earth Room in SoHo to spark connections between your curious neurons.
Spend time with other entrepreneurs.
If you’re a designer, visit the owners of a boutique sex toy shop. If you’re a chocolate maker, spend a few hours with a florist. Whatever your field, step away from it for a day and apprentice yourself to someone doing something entirely different. You’ll come away from the day with new insight into and a fresh passion for your own business.
You can’t take every day off to visit museums and amusement parks, and you certainly can’t eat dessert for breakfast every day. (Wink, wink.) However, you can set aside time each day to read. Read widely and deeply. Read books from diverse industries about varied topics and from multiple viewpoints. The next best thing to having the experience is reading about it, and you can literally squeeze that time into just about any empty corner of your day – from your commute to your lunch time.
Just by going about our daily lives, we 21st entrepreneurs are challenging traditional conventions on the meaning of business, social good, and even work/life balance. But that can be a tremendous drain on our resources. By making time to add more adventure and novelty to your days, you’re not just giving yourself a break, you’re re-fueling your creative genius.