What do Thomas Edison, Frida Kahlo, and Michael Jackson have in common?
That they were famous? That they were resilient? Yes and more. They are all examples in a great book that I keep diving back into when looking for good ways to kickstart my creativity. Or a good hack that is based on neuroscience. The book is called:
Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
Scholar and author Scott Barry Kaufman ( psychologist) and creativity expert Carolyn Gregoire merge both psychology and neuroscience to examine some of history’s finest “messy minds” aka creatives. The result is a fascinating look at the often contradictory habits and practices of creative people. Warning: this is not your usual how-to book. The authors take a deep-dive into the scientific underpinnings into how creativity can be understood:
”The creative process requires disciplined switching between rational and imaginative thinking, each of which is supported by distinct networks in the brain. The creative person harbors paradoxes, prefers complexity, extracts order from disorders, takes risks, perseveres, and feels passion”
And lest you think the book is too abstract. The authors also report on the 10 habits on how to instill and drive creativity. Here are 4 that you can start with today:
1. Make time for your own space and enjoy solitude. For all the benefits of collaboration, open offices, and constant connection, we can easily forget the value of solitude. And there are many, including the opportunity to find flow, daydream constructively, and think about the meaning of your life. For optimal creativity, set aside time for solitude -- from taking a walk, to carving out moments when you’re fully removed from social distractions and really present to what is.
2. Contradict yourself! Think differently – intentionally. Creative people are nonconformists. The most original contributions in any field don’t result from efforts to please the crowd. Research by neuroscientist Gregory Berns suggests that innovative thinkers “bombard the brain with new experiences,” in order to mix existing categories and forge new connections. And the more intentional we are, the better. One study of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and business executives found that innovators spend 50 percent more time trying to think differently -- and these intentional efforts sparked new ideas and associations.
3. Try meditation. We’ve all heard the benefits of meditation and I can personally attest to it. But research by Italian cognitive scientist Lorenza Colzato and her colleagues shows one type of meditation is particularly effective for creative thinking. It’s called “open-monitoring” meditation – in which you are receptive to your thoughts and emotions without focusing intensely on, say, your breath or a mantra. The more traditional focused-attention meditation was better for “convergent thinking” (coming up with a single best solution to a problem). So depending on where you are in your creative process, try to make time for at least a 15-minute meditation a day.
4. Fail fast and often. Embrace adversity. History’s creative geniuses weren’t necessarily tortured souls. But they were all good at finding meaning and guidance from their setbacks. Some of the greatest creators did have a seeming disadvantage -- a disability, mental illness, or loss of a parent -- which they channeled into their art, writing, or entrepreneurship.