Creativity is the most precious asset of the human mind and innovation is the decisive characteristic of our history.
Masterpieces of many great geniuses creative people were completed in silence. Creativity flourishes in solitude; it can’t be expected to come in a chattering room or while being surrounded by people or gadgets.
Certainly, you can benefit from interacting and brainstorming with others, but awesome creative work can be achieved only by shutting out the outside world, whilst you insanely focus on your craft.
But in the current scenario, focus is the biggest challenge for human beings. When we are not engaged on call on this miniature computer that we all carry restrain us with never-ending personal and news updates? We all have experienced how a quick glance at the notification turns into a 30-minute session. That’s why techniques to stay focused are the hallmark of every spiritual tradition.
Modern communication technology and social media have taken the game to a whole new level. Now we have all the information, updates and news in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, while we may think that constant content consumption is making us smarter and faster, the reality is just the opposite. Why? Research has shown that the brain is like a muscle — it changes and gets stronger when you use it. And like any muscle, if you focus only on information input and no practice, it becomes difficult to force your brain to produce any output.
Psychologist Jonathan Smallwood measured this imbalance in a research and found a troubling link between distraction and creativity. Thus, it is important to balance the input and output. His research demonstrates that rather than being in a moment of idle fancy and focusing on input, one should decouple their attention from external information. Hence, focus on self-generated thoughts and feelings when the environment is not demanding.
In other words, mind-wandering augments creativity, particularly “divergent thinking” or being able to come up with novel ideas. As a more recent study found, mind-wandering improved people’s creativity above and beyond the positive effects.
So, a wandering mind, once thought to be a detrimental characteristic of the unfocused, is actually one of the traits we need to encourage of each other.
Always fascinated by human behaviour, I have a habit of observing people, in fact, everything. It helps me reconnect with myself and my thoughts, and provides a huge boost to my writing ability.
I spent most of my life around kids. So, my observation is usually around them. In fact, I believe in: ‘look around and you will see life’s learning at each step’.
Recently, I had the chance to stay with my niece for quite a long time. Due to the lockdown, my six-year-old niece had nothing much to do, and TV and mobile had taken a huge space in that period, apart from her study time. One day, my sister took all the gadgets from my niece, she also switched off the TV, and wanted to give her a break from all these things. For quite some time, my niece sat idle and starting saying, ‘What should I do now? I am bored.’ But her mother was firm on her decision.
After some time, from what I saw, all the toys came out of the cupboard. The kid started playing on her own. Instead of playing games on the screen, she started playing games physically. She pondered the options of cycling and playing with toys. She even created a nice house for herself and her dolls.
To my surprise, she created her own imaginary world. She opened her toy-laptop and started working like her mom. Then, she called her friends from her toy-phone and started talking like we do with our friends. She created her shop and was running a fantastic business. She knew everything from selling to marketing. Thus, whatever she learned from seeing and observing, she was now applying.
I would suggest you to try this with your kid, too. I am sure, you will be amazed to see what all things they already know. And why only kids, try it on yourself, too. Switch off all the input sources for some time and see what the outcome of it is. Unleash your creative and innovative side by self-generating thoughts and feelings.
Say no to others, create that space to produce and feel good about oneself doing something. This is also at the heart of a poem by Charlie Chaplin:
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people,
things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself.
At first, I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is ‘Love of Oneself’.
To summarise, when we decouple ourselves from external information, we start self-generating thoughts. We are poured with new ideas and new ways to do something. So, it will not be wrong to say that staying away from constant content consumption leaves us with more space to be intrinsically motivated and take creative actions.
For some time, if you can resist the temptation of the sweet, jolly and sugary-like notifications on your phone, and give your mind the balanced diet it needs, you will find you have far more creativity than you imagined.
Moving into solitude, at times, can be a good start to unleash your creative and innovative side. That’s why the ideas you have in the shower are so different from the ideas you have at work — you’re a pinch more close-minded at the office.
You would have noticed this during the lockdown. Creativity and innovation were ringing aloud. A quote by Warren Buffet precisely summarises this screamingly obvious yet often ignored fact:
‘The difference between successful people and really successful people is those really successful people say no to almost everything.’
Note: The article was first published here.
About the author: Prerna Dhulekar can be reached out here.