I’ve spent some time thinking about this question over the last year or so. What is it about the creative process that prevents us from utilizing it more often? If creative thinking is so powerful, why aren’t we doing it all the time?
Without a doubt: we all have the capacity to think creatively at some level or another. Curiosity and exploration are innate abilities we’re born with.
So what is it about creative thinking that prevents us from utilizing it more often?
I’ve wondered if it’s the amount of work required to find new concepts that can be combined. Maybe it’s overcoming biases in our thinking that prevent us from seeing creative opportunities? Being diligent in our pursuit of novelty? Ego and the fear of embarrassment or failure? Or perhaps the hardest part of being creative is the uncertainty around it, not knowing how to control it.
Ultimately I think the hardest part of the creative process is something that influences all of the above: our inability to simply let creativity occur.
In more succinct terms: time to think.
If we take just one minute to step back and think about it, it becomes clear why time to think is the most important, yet hardest, part of the creative process.
Given time, many of the previously stated difficulties in thinking creative alleviate themselves. Time allows us to think more clearly, to consider other possibilities, to see circumstances for what they really are (or could be), and so on.
But time is difficult to acquire, particularly time to simply daydream, contemplate, ruminate, or meditate.
Especially these days, when websites, phones, televisions, radios, people and businesses alike, all clamoring for our attention one minute to the next. Time can be a remarkably valuable asset for us to have, not only for creativity, but for anything.
And when we do get a free minute to think, we have become so accustomed to simply keeping ourselves busy that we fail to use the time wisely.
Like an overwhelming itch, we find ourselves constantly desiring to move in some way. To clean up, to work harder, to catch just one more episode of that compelling show or game.
A crucial component of creativity is giving our minds time to process problems, circumstances, and possibilities. Contemplation. Without that thoughtful time, we’re simply cramming more of the non-impactful junk into our attention, blocking out any room there may be for resolving issues or compiling possible ideas.
If you ever find yourself creatively stuck or unable to stimulate new ideas, give yourself time to think.
Research repeatedly shows just how important this point is: go for a long walk, find time to meditate, or just get more sleep. All of these things share one key attribute: they give our mind time to process things.
The hardest part of the creative process is also one of the most important parts. It’s getting out of your own way and giving yourself time to simply think, nothing else.