Take your headphones off if you want creative inspiration

Sometime over the weekend I started discussing the creative importance of taking headphones off in the work place or studio.

Taking your headphones off allows you to be more in tune with the world around you, which is where the inspiration to do what we do comes from.

This belief, that you have to take your headphones off or turn the music down to do good work, understandably got a lot of backlash. What do you think?

If I told you that you should take headphones off, or turn off the music, where you do your best creative work, would you do it? Or would you think I was crazy?

It’s important to note that this notion of removing headphones to boost creativity is true, absolutely true, and we’ll get into the details of why in just a second. But first, you have to consider when this advice makes sense for us as creatives.

Imagine you’ve started a new project, you’re making good progress, then you start to feel stuck. You’re not sure which decision to make next or where to go with the work.

You know the feeling, right? You were motivated and moving fast one minute, then the very next you feel stuck, your inspiration dwindling.

In those moments of stuck-ness it’s not uncommon to try and force your way through the work. So you turn the music up and try to move the needle on your work, but nothing comes. You stay stuck. Your motivation starts to evaporate entirely.

It’s in these moments, when we need inspiration or motivation most, that we should take the headphones off, go for a walk, get away from the work for a moment and soak in everything else around us. And really the idea of “take your headphones off to have more ideas” is a metaphor. Though for some of us it’s not.

The point that some seem to be missing about this situation is that it’s more than ok to wear headphones, or blast music, if you’re not doing the ideation part of the work. That is to say: if you’re doing work that you don’t need to think creatively about, go ahead and plug yourself in, you don’t need inspiration to do that type of work.

However, if you’re starting a new project or finding yourself stuck (or producing less-than-stellar work) consider taking your headphones off, or getting away from your desk, or anything that can reconnect you to the world.

It’s that last point, of connecting to the world, that matters here.

This is important because our brains are powerful machines that are constantly taking in new information, filtering and sorting it, and combining it with everything we already know in order to overcome our creative slumps or to generate new ideas.

If you’re creatively stuck or limited, blocking out the world of inspiration around you is one sure-fire way to ensure you stay stuck and uninspired.

Your brain needs the fuel of conversations in the workplace, or the click-clack of keyboards at the cafe, the hum of a busy highway, the towering sky outside. It’s through those things that our brains do their best work, of connecting ideas and generating solutions, or finding new sources of inspiration to feed from.

Take your headphones off once-in-a-while. Get away from your desk. Connect with the world, because it’s from the world that your ideas stem.


Headphones are shortening your career

The creative processing your brain won’t tell you about

Where do the best ideas come from?

Photo via Flickr.