Ok. Now dance! – How to Be Spontaneously Creative
Do you wish you were better at generating bold, brave, and new ideas in the spur of the moment?
You’re probably trying a bit too hard to make it happen.
First, it’s worth noting that creativity doesn’t start and end with the arts – despite many thinking the two are synonymous. Creativity touches every realm of life. You can find imaginative ways to exercise, schedule your day, clean your bathroom, file reports, and even brush your teeth.
Regardless of the realm in which the most creativity strikes, these moments won’t come from thinking something in oblivion. Nor will you conjure ground-breaking ideas from over-analysis and meticulous self-editing.
More often than not, such inspirational thought occurs during unconscious moments of spontaneity.
However, as contradictory as it sounds, being spontaneously creative doesn’t just happen. Instead, it requires discipline and a shift in mindset.
Let’s delve a little bit deeper into the topic:
Pushing Less and Creating More
You’ve probably been told your whole life that when the going gets tough, push even harder.
Are you struggling with a challenging class in school? Then study through all hours of the night.
Are you battling to lose a few extra pounds before your wedding? Then run a few extra miles.
Are you behind on a project at work? Then stay late at the office and work until it’s done.
Now, we’re not saying there isn’t merit to these methods. Not all processes require spontaneous creativity—but the principles they teach us are counterintuitive when it comes to that skill.
The worst thing you can do when trying to create something on the fly is to overthink and push too hard. What often ends up happening (even if you do think of an excellent idea) is you pulverize the spontaneous moment of inspiration into nothingness. What was once unique and beautiful may as well have never existed in the first place.
Blending Creativity with Professionalism
The award-winning triumph of a television show, Mad Men, gave viewers an accurate depiction of the advertising world. More specifically, it provided a detailed breakdown of the creative process.
In one episode, the show’s main character, Don Draper, was questioned about his creative team’s questionable work habits. They were known for goofing around and enjoying a few beverages.
We’re paraphrasing, but Don’s response was brimming with insight. He explained, “my team is unproductive until they’re not.”
Don is referring to the “aha” moment, and he’s trusting his team’s process—and rightfully so. 99% of the time, his team delivered. And as we said, the show was based heavily on fact and real-life anecdotes from the ad industry.
Now, there’s a difference between being lazy without purpose and trusting your process in a way that allows some breathing room.
Mr Draper would also tell his subordinates to sleep on ideas when they reached their breaking point. If the idea was still viable in the morning—then it was solid.
Keep in mind, these people had to meet deadlines, work long hours, and deliver in high-pressure situations. This wasn’t all happy-happy-fun-time. Don, the boss, gave his team enough rope to be creative.
A critical takeaway from this example is that the team (despite being notorious for wild antics) still had to get from ‘a’ to ‘b.’
However, the road travelled from ‘a’ to ‘b’ was winding, bumpy, and involved a few rest-stops along the way.
Math and the Unconscious Mind
We’ve discussed ads and creativity, and how you can’t force the unconscious ‘aha’ moment. However, advertisements and creativity go hand-in-hand.
But what about more analytical pursuits like math?
Well, the unconscious mind and spontaneous thinking are still entirely crucial to the process. At least according to Henri Poincaré, in his 1904 book on The Foundations of Science.
Poincaré explains that the unconscious’s role in mathematics can’t be denied. With a challenging problem, it’s rare for the answer to come during the first attempt. Only after a short or long rest and a half-an-hour into the 2nd crack at finding the solution does the epiphany strike.
Of course, the conscious thought before-hand was necessary, much like with any other form of creativity. Your acquired knowledge and analysis are still essential building blocks to spontaneous ideas—but only encompass step one of the process.
What Does it Mean to Think Outside of the Box?
Thinking outside of the box necessitates the existence of the box in the first place.
The ‘box’ could be akin to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is linked to planned actions and self-censoring. This region of the brain is mainly responsible for your inhibitions.
Interestingly, one study found that when Jazz Musicians improvised, the activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex showed down. But the same musicians couldn’t have improvised without honing their craft in the first place.
In a nutshell, spontaneous creativity is a balancing act between your conscious and unconscious mind. It’s about channelling what you know into learning your own process and accessing your emotions to produce something uniquely brilliant.