Creative Something

Creativity requires that you keep coming back for more

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To be a writer you have to write, of course. But you can’t simply write a paragraph and call yourself a writer.

Arguably, to truly be a writer you have to write more than a book too. You have to write and then keep writing. The same is true of painting, sculpting, performing, and even teaching.

This is also true of creativity: if you want to be creative you have to continuously work on it. But breaks are good for creativity too, it turns out.

Researchers have shown that taking breaks provides the brain with precious time for idea incubation. Breaks allow us to literally break the cycle of thinking that often causes symptoms such as writer’s block. When we break out of our current processes of thinking, it allows moments of eureka-like insights to occur.

What commonly happens for the amateur – or naive – creative is that he or she takes a break, and then another break, and then – before long – there’s too much other stuff to do and not enough time or focus to get back on the creative work.

We know this is a problem for creativity (apart from the obvious reasons of procrastination) because it trains us to be short-term with our thinking. As a result of breaks becoming more of habit and less of utility, our attention waivers at the slightest flash, beep, or craving.

You know what I’m talking about. Right now you’re likely tempted to check your phone, or email, or another website. To close the window, or open a new one, or get up from your desk altogether. If you’ve made it this far without jumping away: congratulations. Keep reading.

Scientists have shown that persistence pays off for creative work; those that can consistently show-up to do a task without distraction tend to fair better and produce more creative results.

This sounds conflicting at first however. Research shows that we need breaks in order to allow ideas to incubate, but additional research indicates that we should be persistent if we’re to gain the benefits of what psychologists and neurologists refer to as “working memory.”

It’s working memory that is failing when you walk into a room and immediately forget why you did so.

Working memory is also attributed to our ability to work on something while, at the same time, recall more distant memories or ideas that can be tied to the work.

So what do we need to do if we want to be the best creatives we can be: take more breaks or be more persistent?

Essentially this is how creative ideas fully come about: as a result of you being focused and persisting in the work, but at the same time being able to subconsciously recall additional information through working memory without being distracted by that information.

Professional creatives are those who have found the proper balance of persisting through problems or projects with taking the much-needed breaks that yield powerful insights.

Even those who have found a balance still struggle to maintain it from time-to-time. Sometimes the distractions are too plentiful or the work is too enticing.

But it’s from years of dedication to the work that the best creatives have thrived. Only from those years of dedication have the creative greats throughout history realized the power of both persistence and idleness.

By taking well-timed breaks (and that’s key here: timed breaks), then returning to the work, you ensure that you are giving yourself the time to let thoughts simmer, give your brain a break, and also that you continue on with the work.

Sometimes the work takes only a few hours, other times it can take months or years. The point to remember is that you have to keep returning to the work.

When the work is completed, the ideas are overflowing, or success has been unburied, the great creatives understand that those moments are breaks too. Breaks from the larger body of work: of becoming a writer, a painter, an artist, a dancer, a musician, or whatever else.

If you want to be creative – or a successful creative worker – you have to decide now, today, that you’ll keep showing up. Then, when you start feeling exhausted or stuck, taking a timed break and coming back to keep working.

Lamp icon by David Papworth.


<p>Everything you do is a chance to do something different.</p>

Everything you do is a chance to do something different.


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Creativity is about facing fears

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There’s a moment, after working on something for so long, when you start to doubt it.

You could be a writer working on a novel or an artist doodling on a napkin, and somewhere between when your finger hits the first key or your pen hits the fabric and when you’ve got yourself a final piece of…something, there’s a bright ray of doubt. Often times it’s blinding.

Everyone feels this sometime. For some, the doubt strikes more often than others.

The doubt takes many forms too, but often it’s the shape of an audience, a crowd, or mentor, chanting “This will never work,” or “Nobody is going to care.” Fear of the critic. And there may be value to those warnings. Maybe what you’re doing won’t work. Maybe nobody will care. Maybe you’re working on something that is hopelessly going to end up in a trash pile several years from now.

But the artist (or idiot) in presses on. Because he or she has to.

At least, that’s how true creatives feel.

There are artists who pickup the pencil because the cute guy or girl in their class does so too. There are writers who type endlessly during the workday because it helps to pay the bills, but once the weekend rolls around that writer is far away from those words and – most importantly – the doubts the writing brings.

True artists persevere regardless.

Artists who paint because they feel it’s the only way they can effectively communicate. Designers and inventors who work because they have an insatiable curiosity about the world around them. Writers who feel that they have something to say, even in the face of knowing that nobody may hear or read exactly what those words are.

For some, creativity is a disease. A real one, not just a psychological theory. Hypergraphia, for example, is the need for an individual to write. It has been traced to imbalances and occasional damage in the brain, commonly in the temporal lobe. Those who have hypergraphia have a very real drive to write.

Real, true, creatives are those who have these desires to create, explore, and answer or ask questions because they absolutely have to.

These types of creatives easy to spot too, because they’re the ones picking up art supplies over the weekend. They’re the ones who send a last minute message to a friend to let them know they’re going to be late, they have to finish this one last line of writing, or programming, or of their architectural blueprint, before they can head out.

They become distraught when they find themselves unable to write, or paint, or dance, or create. But within time they’re back at it, almost uncontrollably. As though someone had flipped a switch within them.

But there are doubts. The true creative wonders if they’re creating something utterly useless. They wonder if there’s a real need for artists. They worry that they’re wasting their time or energy.

The difference between someone who is truly a creative and all of the other dreamers is that the true creative presses on in the face of doubt, of not knowing.

Creativity is about facing fears.

The first place to start is by figuring out what those doubts or fears are, and then getting them out of your way.


What causes creativity

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What causes creativity

Creativity requires a delicate balance of primarily these eight things. If you’re not feeling particularly creative, evaluate which of these might be off balance for you.


“Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature—all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.”

Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

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<p>Being more creative requires creativity in the first place.</p>

Being more creative requires creativity in the first place.


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