You don’t need a creative boost

Can we talk about boosting your creativity for a minute?

It feels as though there have been a slew of articles and resources lately that are all about “boosting your creativity.” I can’t quite figure out who these articles are being written for.

Surely you’ve seen articles online that promise just the right amount of caffeine, or room temperature, or exercise routine, will generate a sizable boost to your creative brain power. Maybe you’ve heard the same brain-boosting lessons preached from peers, bosses, or teachers. They exclaim: Have more ideas in six easy steps, 10 things you can do to be more creative right now, or How to make your office into a creative den for boosting creativity.

Doing a quick search on Google for “boost your creativity” returns more than 9 million web pages filled with creativity boosters.

Boosters for creative thinking, it seems, are everywhere.

Which makes me wonder: are there really that many ways to boost creativity? If we were to compile all of those pages together would we end up with some 9,000,000 ways to think more creatively? If these lists are so prolific and time-tested, why isn’t everyone and their neighbor a creative genius by now?

Of course, I’m guilty of touting “boost your creativity” like this as well. In-fact, I made an app that has 150+ techniques for “boosting” creativity within it. I’m just as guilty as all the other websites and makers who promise the boosting benefits of thinking differently, trying new tools, or jumping up and down on one foot while chanting positive affirmations.

I have to wonder if we can do better than seeking and promoting “boosters” for our thinking.

As creative workers, do we really need these articles and resources that make such hollow promises? Granted, boosters like the tips shared in these articles and stories do help us, but what they’re promising isn’t what they ultimately end up offering. Instead, brain boosting articles merely give us ideas on things we can try in order to invoke creativity in our lives and work (which is particularly useful when we feel utterly hopeless or lost). But they can’t boost shit.

Do we really need nine million web pages telling us to stop doing what we’re doing and try something new instead?

I think seeking out creativity boosters is more of a step in procrastination than anything. When you indulge in reading about the latest research on how to “boost” your creativity in the hopes that you’ll find some “weird trick” what you’re really doing is wasting your time.

Let’s set the record straight now: you and I don’t need creativity boosters.

What we need is a means for understanding our own creativity, how our brains work, and what our lifestyles and types of work mean for our creative potential. We can’t get that in the form of a booster pack. We have to find it in scientific research, experimentation, and a lot of tinkering. I think tinkering is the most important part, because it involves getting your hands dirty.

When we’re looking for “creativity boosters” what we’re really doing is avoiding the work. We’re looking for an imaginary, easy, one-simply-trick to get us past our procrastination. Something to either do the work for us or make it so the work isn’t so hard.

Of course, doing the hard work is what makes any of us valuable.

Often when we feel like we need a boost of creativity, what we really need to do is get to work.

It’s through diligent work – trial and error – that we’re going to discover the authentic boosters for our work. Not some list thrown together online.

One of the best insights I have personally learned over the years on how to be creative is simply: get to work, try something. That’s it. No need to make sure the temperature of the room you’re working in is just right. No need to create an inspiration board. Forget about a cup of coffee or the right decibel of white noise.

Write a few lines of that book, attempt to draft up a business plan, put the damn brush against the canvas and move your arm. It doesn’t matter whether you know what you’re doing or not, you’ll learn as you go. The ideas will come. Do the work, then reflect on the experience. What was the atmosphere like? What did you do before/after the work? Did you feel productive or not? Do you feel lost or like any movement is getting you closer to where you need to be?

Yes, indulge in research which touts that their tips will give you a creative boost, but know that until you get down to work yourself…the tips are an excuse for procrastinating.

You don’t need procrastination. Find what works for you.

Photo by NASA.