17 May More about Mindfulness and Creativity
Over and over again, research finds that applying mindfulness to creativity is the best way to work, but as free-spirited creatives we are apt to go for spontaneity over planning! If we can find the middle ground that doesn’t feel too controlled, yet leaving the way open to spontaneity, we may find we are more productive. Bear with me on this!
For over a century people have been working out what it takes to be creative. Scientific paper and books spell out in detail the four steps needed for creativity: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification (Wallas, 1926), however these steps feel somewhat left-brained and dry. If we can get past that thought, and apply mindfulness to the steps, we may find we are able to be more creative, and not feel too controlled.
Despite what we may think, there is a need for a degree of order in our minds before we can successfully create – to become mindful. Too much freedom, just like too much control, can be stultifying because we often can’t decide where to start when every option is open to us. By starting with some mindful thinking, we can find a place of balance between our needs for freedom and control.
Mindfulness and Preparation
This is perhaps the time we most need to be still and calm ourselves. A little time of quiet meditation and centering will help you become more mindful by clearing your mind of other things in your life and help you calm down. It is when we are calm, not distracted, that higher quality ideas come to us. It takes some practice to work out how to become calm – where to sit, how much light or dark, indoors or outdoors, a quiet or busy place – but the trial and error will pay dividends. Don’t expect to work this all out the first time round, and it may be that different settings work better for you at different times.
Mindfulness and Incubation
This is another time when we want to run and get started, but are much better served by allowing time and space for ideas to grow. By being mindful – clearing your mind of other worries and stresses – it will provide much more helpful thoughts. Happily you don’t have to sit in the lotus position and wait for inspiration! Being occupied in a mundane task – or even sleeping – will often provide ideas and directions you hadn’t previously considered. So go for a walk, mow the lawn or empty the cat’s litter box and surprise yourself with the divergent places you mind will take you! As a caution, don’t chase ideas or demand they appear. They usually don’t show up if you are trying to hit a deadline or urgently make money. You have to slow yourself down and become more mindful to find their pace…
Mindfulness and Illumination
When we are busy and distracted ideas still keep coming to us, but we may not notice them – or opt to think about them late, only to have them vanish. Again, when our minds are quiet, we are so much more aware of our thoughts. By becoming mindful we allow the space to appear for ideas to grow, for us to notice them, and work out how best to use them.
Mindfulness and Verification
Not surprisingly, once we start to test our ideas in real life, we also need to spend time being mindful. If we rush into a project and things don’t work out as we expected, it is easy to become disillusioned and unmotivated. By becoming mindful, even for a short time, we can see how different elements might work together. As you know, not all projects go exactly the way we first think they will, so making time to let ideas come to you may provide new ways to move the project forwards – instead of dropping it before it is fully formed.
So what can we learn from this? Mindfulness and creativity clearly go hand in hand when what you are creating matters. The more mindful you can become, the better the chance you will be quiet enough to notice an new idea, make space to allow it to grow, and get ideas to tweak it if it doesn’t work out exactly as imagined. Ready for more mindfulness and enhanced creativity?