How has your January been?
To be honest I feel as if it’s January 71st, not the 31st – Christmas is a dim memory, but the weight gain isn’t, and the days are long, cold and grey.
But tomorrow is a fresh, clean month and we are kicking off the Creative Leap, 29 days of creative brain food delivered straight to your in-box.
Each week here on Creative Moment I’m going to dive a bit deeper into a theme we’re covering on our free online course which starts tomorrow (sign up here).
Here’s a sneak peek at some of what we’ll be sharing in the Creative Leap this coming week:
- Know thyself - what's your creative type? Gain personal insights into your creative approach and invite your team to do the same
- Try a brainstorming tool that introverts love (but they’ll never tell you)
- Why ‘sleeping on it’ works
The last topic particularly interests me.
I’ve always been fascinated by what’s actually playing out our 3lbs of grey matter whilst we’re generating creative ideas. People often ask how to get into a creative ‘zone.’
Is there a way to switch your creativity on and off?
There are different strategies that I personally find help if I’m feeling stuck on a problem. Getting physical works for me – taking a walk or playing music (something bouncy and Beyonce-ish for 5 minutes of home office disco). Sometimes I take a power nap. It’s often when I’m doing something else that I’ll find an answer.
Whilst researching for my book I interviewed the so-called Pope of Soap’, John Whiston, MD for Continuing Drama & Head of ITV in the North. His creative remit covers new ideas and storylines for serial dramas Coronation Street and Emmerdale. So, he’s a man with a demanding creative to-do list.
He told me that his creative process often surprises people, but it relies on the power of the unconscious mind and noodling on it (even sleeping on it), something we rarely allow ourselves to do in a business context.
It’s an integral part of the creative process – known as incubation.
He told me: “if someone wants me to come up with something, say if they send me an email about what they are looking for, I won't read it properly. I will just scan it and get the gist. And I won't start thinking about it. I'll just file away the idea behind the email and maybe a couple of phrases. I don't yet have the good idea, the clever angle. I don't want to go back with a boring, sensible, perfectly satisfactory answer.
My conscious mind will know I have to reply to the email. And my inbox will nudge me whenever I'm on the computer. At some random point, on a train or walking into a building, an idea will spring at me. Actually spring. From behind a bush or around a corner. The rest is easy. Just work outwards from the idea and then use that to reply to the email.”
Another excellent way to channel the power of the unconscious mind is to fall asleep.
Elias Howe perfected his sewing machine design during his sleep. Mendeleev’s arrangement of the original periodic table was reportedly imagined during sleep (the idea for my book’s version popped into my head, whilst face-down and dozing during a massage following a Breaking Bad box-set binge).
Popular culture is awash with stories of dream-inspired creativity.
And the brain science is right behind them. A 2009 study showed that REM sleep, the phase we dream in, is particularly conducive to creative problem solving.
Ok I hear you saying, that’s all good, you’re telling me to nap more and to just wait for an idea to ‘spring at me’ from a bush.
Well, yes I am, but there is a stage you have to undertake first. Use your conscious, logical brain and apply critical thinking; digest the brief, gather your insights and data, talk to people, form theories, explore your options. And then when it all feels like your brain is fried, leave it alone – deliberately.
The wonderful James Webb Young (an advertising giant) puts it beautifully: “What you do is to take the different bits of materials you have gathered and feel them all over, as it were, with the tentacles of the mind. You take one fact, turn it this way and that, look at it in different lights, and feel for the meaning of it. You bring two facts together and see how they fit.”
He goes so far to say that this is the ‘secret sauce’ to brilliant creative ideas, and that he’s happy to share it because most people will not bother with making the time – the deliberate rather than accidental incubation process - that our always-on lives don’t leave space for.
So next time you need to be creative, schedule in that nap. Blame me.
Join the Creative Leap!
Our free online programme starting tomorrow Saturday 1st Feb.
We’ll be sharing our team’s favourite resources on this free programme, gleaned, learned and practiced over our combined careers spanning over 25 years working in PR, planning, scriptwriting and coaching.
Sign up for a 29-day dose of creative inspiration, brain food and ways to tackle the blank page, delivered to your in-box. https://mailchi.mp/nowgocreate...