10 Magical Steps to Creative Bliss

Shades of blue to to help the blues...
Shades of blue to to help the blues...

Two years ago at the Dynamic Adaptability: New Thinking and New Strategies for the Arts conference in San Francisco, I had the pleasure to hear Jonah Lehrer, an author, journalist, and neuroscientist discuss how science is linked with creativity.  Lehrer has been featured on NPR, The Colbert Report, and RADIOLAB.  His books include Imagine, How We Decide, and Proust was a Neuroscientist.

Mr. Lehrer recently wrote an article in the The Wall Street Journal titled “How To Be Creative.”  He describes the myth around being creative and with a few “tricks” anyone can innovate.  However there are different levels of innovation and I’m curious how Lehrer would define it.

In the article, he lists 10 Quick Creativity Hacks:

  1. Blue-  Lehrer cites a 2009 study that the color blue “…leads to more relaxed and associative thinking.”  Emotionally the term blue refers to being low in spirits.  However, the color blue is believed to soothe and treat pain.  So if you’re feeling blue surround yourself with blue to feel better.
  2. Get Groggy-  Lehrer cites another study and states “…people at their least alert time of the day…performed far better on various creative puzzles, sometimes improving their success rate by 50%.”  Maybe being tired has its perks?
  3. Daydream Away-  Research proves that daydreaming makes you more creative.  I’m closing my eyes and dreaming of sitting on a chair on a tropical beach with warm sand between my toes and a beautiful water view.  Wake up!  Back to reality…
  4.  Think Like A Child-  According to Lehrer: “When subjects are told to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds, they score significantly higher on tests of divergent thinking, such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire.”  Yes, I can be that 7-year-old with no worries of bills!  Get out of my way and find me some ice cream…
  5. Laugh-  Comedy and laughter help with solving puzzles.  Maybe the movie Christmas Vacation has the key to world peace?
  6. Imagine That Your Far Away-  Lehrer states: “Research conducted at Indiana University found that people were much better at solving insight puzzles when they were told that the puzzles came from Greece or California, and not from a local lab.”  Yes the “not in my backyard” mentality really has meaning!
  7. Generic-  Using generic verbs opens one to multiple possibilities!  Instead of “walking” to the store let’s try “moving” or “skipping.”
  8. Work Outside the Box-  A study proves that working inside a cubicle is less creative than working outside of it.  Yes, we can be free now!
  9. Get out there and see the world!  Living abroad and traveling makes us more creative.  Now if my bank account would match my travel plans…
  10. City Living-  According to Lehrer: “Physicists at the Santa Fe Institute have found that moving from a small city to one that is twice as large leads inventors to produce, on average, about 15% more patents.”  Competition makes one work harder!

My “perfect” creative day would include being groggy, daydreaming, watching Will Ferrell’s impression of George Bush while imagining I’m a child in Italy sitting on top of a blue box in Times Square.  Lerhrer’s suggestions will have to be one by one instead of all at once.  Moderation is key…

The links:



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