There are more than 100 billion neurons in your brain. Each of those neurons has between 1,000 and 10,000 connections to other neurons, creating an organic network of more than 1 quadrillion synapses in a soft little mass sitting between your ears.
In theory, those neurons are processing 200 billion or more bits of information every second.
Yet, for all of the processing going on in your brain every second, how much are you consciously aware of around you? Your attention is on a sliver of everything going on around you at any moment, at best. While you read these words, have you mentally noted the temperature of your body, or the sounds coming at you from all around, or the rhythm of your heartbeat or breathing? Odds are that you have not, because your subconscious makes a note of all of those things for you, including taking the energy required to regulate your breathing and blood, and keep your organs functioning while also looking and listening for potential danger.
Without having to be told, you would not consciously be aware of even a fraction of the bits of information your brain is processing at any given moment.
When it comes to creativity, all of that information – subconscious or otherwise – is important. It’s the ideas and experiences you store in your brain that impact the creation of new ideas and solutions to problems.
Being aware of all the input you’re missing out on leads to a simple way to trick your brain into being more creative: by actively causing your more conscious mind to observe some of the subconscious bits you encounter.
When you experience new things, a new sensation or observation especially, you’ll suddenly find inspiration in even the most mundane places, ideas will spark almost effortlessly, and if you ever feel creatively stuck again you can try this trick to get unstuck in no time.
So what’s the trick? Overloading or under loading your senses. You want to force your brain into processing something other than what you’re used to when you’re working or problem-solving.
For example: when you sit down to draw, emphasis what you’re doing by using a XXL sized marker instead of a pen or pencil. If you’re writing, try writing in a way that you can only see one word or sentence. Better yet, stir up your daily routine: close your eyes when you’re doing the dishes to emphasis your sense of touch, blast classical music through headphones while writing to drown out the sound of the keyboard or pencil on paper, or try dancing in a room heavily-scented with candles to overload your sense of smell.
These simple changes to your senses will spur up experiences you otherwise would normally not have noticed. It’s part of the same reason many creatives use drugs: a new perspective or new sensation.
But you don’t have to take drugs to change up your everyday experiences and observe more of the data your brain is processing every second. You just have to make an effort to notice a little more than you did before.
Photo by Adrigu.