Three Ways You Can Be More Creative
Illustration by Mr Nick Hardcastle
Wish you were more creative? Scientist Mr Estanislao Bachrach explains three ways you can up your game.
People tend to talk about creativity as if it’s a magical, intangible thing that can’t really be pinned-down or quantified. Especially creative people, who seem particularly good at affecting an attitude of inscrutable unicorn-ness whenever questioned about how or why they do the things they do. (Google “David Lynch Interviews Moby” if you need any proof of this fact). For us lesser mortals who don’t find ourselves constantly buoyed along on a bubbly foam of our own limitless inspiration, it can therefore be a bit difficult to improve oneself in this area. If you want to be more creative, how do you even start?
Luckily, for anyone who has asked themselves this question, Argentinian scientist Mr Estanislao Bachrach has looked rather exhaustively into it, and collected his findings in The Agile Mind: How Your Brain Makes Creativity Happen, a primer of sorts to the mechanics of creativity, which is being published in English for the first time this week. “I wanted to challenge myself to translate 17 years of scientific experiments and learnings into something that everyone could understand,” he says of writing the book, which is filled not only with explanations about the neuroscience of creativity, but a wide variety of exercises to help you actually train and improve your creative faculties.
By experimenting with such techniques, says Mr Bachrach, there is hope for us all: “I have worked for seven years with my team helping organisations to be more creative and can tell you that I have never seen a Da Vinci or a Picasso. However, I have seen a lot of people develop their creativity because they wanted to, believed they could do it and, of course practised a lot.” Now that sounds a little bit more encouraging. If you’re keen to beef up your own creativity, The Agile Mind is released 26 May from Virgin books. In the meantime, scroll down for three key tips from Mr Bachrach that should help you get started.
Many of Mr Bachrach’s exercises in The Agile Mind are focused on disrupting existing structures of thought and process to encourage unexpected combinations of ideas. “One of the things that the brain likes best is to repeat – either consciously or unconsciously – the same thoughts, emotions and actions,” he says. “The reason why is because in this way, the brain minimises the risks and saves more energy and memory.” Of course, this means that we tend to have similar (ie, very uncreative) ideas again and again. Trying to come up with ideas based on random concepts, words or images, says Mr Bachrach, is a good way of circumventing this. “It’s an attempt to trick our own brains so that we can see, feel and think in a different way – in a new way,” he says.
For goodness’ sake, relax
Your boss probably doesn’t want to accept this, but working yourself to the bone is not the best way to come up with good ideas. In fact, stress is a real dampener on creativity. “There are fMRI [functional magnetic resonance imaging] studies that show that the calmer a person is, the higher the chances are of that person having insights – commonly known as eureka moments” says Mr Bachrach. “What these studies basically do is look for different brain waves that are related to the stages a person has when he comes up with a creative idea. When someone is relaxed, the brain has alpha waves, and when he has an eureka moment the brain is in gamma waves. The enemy are the beta waves which are related to focusing on a specific task or multitasking.”
Mr Bachrach cites such greats as Mr Pablo Picasso (who produced more than 50,000 paintings in his lifetime) and Mr Thomas Edison (who went through many unsuccessful attempts before he perfected the electric lightbulb) to prove the fact that to have good ideas, you also need to have lots of bad ones. In fact, you just have to have as many ideas as you possibly can. “Creativity, by definition, involves something new and unknown. Being right or succeeding on the first try is not very common, so bear this in mind and do not get frustrated at the beginning. Try to focus on the quantity of ideas and not the quality. Look for fresh and new ideas, even if they sound absurd and ridiculous at first.”