Creative Something

What really matters for having ideas, and why it’s not the color of your room

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Much of the science and research behind creative thinking seems to be more fluff and placebo than actual fact. At least in how it’s presented and interpreted.

The result of this misinterpretation is that we end up believing things about creativity that simply aren’t true; and these beliefs hurt our ability to seriously be creative.

For example, fairly recent research says you should paint the walls of your office blue. Why blue? Because blue supposedly reminds your subconscious of the vastness of the open sky which, in turn, results in bubbling spring of ideas.

Is this not an absurd notion? Blue walls may very well make you feel “limitless,” but without a whole bunch of other factors, simply seeing blue isn’t going to help you spark any ideas.

There’s more.

There has been a recent surge of interest in brain training and thinking exercise games in hopes of boosting creative thinking abilities. I consider brain training to be the most prolific baloney around creativity as of late.

Science has shown that brain training doesn’t work just as much as alternative research indicates it does. So what should we believe? In my opinion, it brain training make our mental senses a little sharper, but it’s not going to make us more creative or more intelligent.

This is easy to understand. Creative exercises make us feel good because they’re a game, and – like any other game – the more we play them the better we get. Because we’re improving on the game, our body releases endorphins, which make us feel like we’re actually accomplishing something. But these creative exercises and games don’t make us any more creative.

Then there’s the notion that working from a cafe, with the unique and subtle background noise you get from them, works to put us into a type of creative flow.

An entire business model has been made on this idea that coffee shop noise boosts creativity.

But, after digging through some of the research, there doesn’t seem to be much actual data behind that idea either. Like brain training, coffee house buzz is baloney.

The fact is that we’ve been so misled by attempts to link brain data and poorly translated science that we’ve lost sight of what really makes creativity work.

We’ve tried to make creativity something like a solid emotion or tangible muscle. But creativity isn’t like that.

This shouldn’t really be surprising, yet I’m wagering for many people it is. Primarily because we want to believe that we know what is going on in our brain when we talk about creativity. And yet, America alone is spending $100,000,000 in an attempt to figuring the brain out.

Truthfully, some of this stuff may work for you. Some of it may not. Some of it may simply be the placebo you need to get yourself into the right mood or mentality for creative insights to occur.

But that’s the point we need to emphasize anyway, regardless of pseudo-science or actual science:

You don’t need to change the color of your room, or work from a treehouse, or rely on doodling to be creative.

Instead, we need to focus on building the core aspects of creativity itself.

In this sense, creativity is easier to look at for what it is rather than what we want it to be. It’s more of a secondary affect, not something you can work towards directly. It’s fueled by other elements and countless attributes, not directly.

Fortunately the aspects of creativity are much easier to work with from a scientific perspective, far easier than trying to work with the overwhelmingly ambiguous term that is “creativity.”

Therefore, to have more creative ideas we need to evaluate not the color of the room or the size of our notebook, but instead whether or not we got a full night of sleep, what motivation we’re dealing with, our level of interest and curiosity, our ability to tinker and experiment, and whether or not we have the resources to not only fuel ideas, but to work with them as they arrive.

This is what creativity is about, not the color of a room or the sounds around us.

Those things may impact our creativity somewhat, but at the end, if we want to seriously have creative ideas, we must look at the aspects that drive creativity: our confidence, curiosity, energy levels, how mindful we’re being, and so on.

If you’re feeling creatively stuck today, look to adjust those aspects. Not noise levels or the color of your office.


“You are bound to be wrong quite often. And the only way to succeed is to surround yourself with very smart/talented people with shared interests. [But] if you lack self-awareness, you will fail to leverage the resources around you.”

AMA happening now with Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and 99u

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“Cool ideas are everywhere. I just pick something and daydream about what it might be like. You have to let it work you as much as you make it work.

Via sourcing creativity

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The cost and benefit of moving outside your edges

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If you’ve never performed a choreographed dance routine in front of 100 people, let me assure you that it can be more than frightening.

Standing up there on stage, the dancer is tasked with showing not only their ability to move, but to prove that they have what it takes to completely dedicate themselves to something they are passionate about. A mistake may very well be an accident, but it could just as easily come across as an indicator that the dancer didn’t prepare hard or long enough.

The tension grows as the audience does as well. From 100 to 1,000 people the cost of a misstep becomes huge. Suddenly there’s a 10 times increase in the number of eyeballs that might potentially see a misstep.

But nobody can make it as a world-class dancer unless they face the fear of performing in front of at least 1,000 sets of eyes.

This is the cost of any creative risk.

A writer who only publishes his or her work in a close-knit circle of friends and acquaintances can’t become world-renown. There’s simply not enough traction in such a small circle of readers to make it happen. Likewise, an artist who is too shy to display his or her work in a large gallery (digitally or physically) will struggle to thrive. The musician who refuses to put her work on SoundCloud because “the comments are too aggressive” is going to have an even harder time performing in front of a real, new audience far away from home. Not always, but more often than not.

Similarly, the inventor who hides his or her invention away for fear that someone will break it is missing the point all together.

To grow creatively we have to push our personal boundaries.

Why? Because creativity doesn’t exist where we already know how the audience will react, or where we know the feedback will be mostly positive and encouraging. Creativity doesn’t exist in the scope we are most comfortable with. It can’t. By definition creativity lies just outside of what we know and are comfortable being around.

To really find our creative potential we have to explore our edges, even if it makes us feel like our ideas or actions are no good, too risky, or ridiculous. We have to be at least somewhat uncertain.

Photo via Flickr.


Why be creative

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To a fish, the pond is as big as it gets.

In the pond, a wall isn’t just a wall, it’s the end of everything and anything. It’s incomprehensible (if fish could comprehend in the first place) that anything exists outside of the pond. Let alone anything worthwhile.

Why bother wondering if anything exists outside our little pond anyway? To a fish, anything outside the pond is useless. It’s within the pond that all necessities exist. Life is complete. Which makes creativity seem unnecessary, even overrated.

To be creative is to wonder what’s outside the pond anyway. Not because we need to, but because we’ll never know if there’s something bigger, better, or more rewarding until we do.


“If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

Steve Jobs, via TIME

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