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“Background noise creates a distraction, but balance is key. A moderate level of background noise creates just enough distraction to break people out of their patterns of thinking and nudge them to let their imagination wander, while still keeping them from losing their focus on the project all together. This distracted focus helps enhance your creativity. The study’s authors explain that “getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas.”—Research suggests the right amount of ambient noise increases creativity – which makes sense, considering the unconscious processing phase of ideation.
“The true novelist, poet, musician, or artist is really a discoverer.”—An Anatomy of Inspiration, 1942
Nine Ways to Find the Time and Achieve Your Creative Goals!
1) How many hours a day do you want to write? What is your daily minimum? (This can vary depending on the time of year it is). Write it down and commit yourself to finding that time!
2) Turn off the TV! You can watch TV, but then you are NOT ALLOWED to complain about not having time. You choose what you leave behind after you die. Do you want that to be watching TV? Know your vices!
5) Claim your space! Build a writing cottage! For a while LH Anderson used her car as her writing space when she was picking up kids from sports. Carve out a little space that is yours. I could be a side of the couch or a room. This is important to your soul. Honor that space on the outside and that honor will seep to the inside.
6) Be Gentle. Stop telling yourself you suck! Be nice to yourself!
8) Dawdle with Purpose! You can’t always be ON. Make a list of ten-minute things that you can do to distract yourself. Poetry is great for this. Move around and get physical. Go for a walk. Move your arms. Swim. Get oxygen to your brain!
Creativity Linked with Deficit in Mental Flexibility
Creative types are often seen as rather flaky — their minds leaping wildly from one bizarre idea to another, ever seeking inspiration. But a new study suggests that people who actually achieve creative success have minds that stubbornly cling to ideas, even to the point where it impairs their ability to shift focus.
In one experiment, researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois selected 34 students out of more than 300 who completed a questionnaire on creative achievement, ultimately including 19 who had outstanding achievements in music, art, science, writing or other areas and 15 of those whose scores ranked them as being among the least creative.
“We preselected people with very high and very low creative achievement,” says lead author Darya Zabelina, a graduate student at Northwestern. The research was published in Frontiers in Psychology.
During the study, participants had to shift their attention from a global level of processing to a local one, by focusing on different aspects of patterns. In some cases, they were asked to identify a large letter made up of smaller ones (for example, an “S” pattern made up of smaller “e’s”). In other instances, the correct answer was the opposite one — identifying the smaller letter.
“It’s a little counter-intuitive,” says Zabelina, “but people with high creativity actually perform badly on this test.” In fact, they made more than twice as many errors as the less creative group — and even after controlling for overall intelligence, the creative people still did less well.
A second experiment involved the same task, performed by another 39 high, moderate or low scorers in creative achievements. Again, the more creative people scored lower. And in both experiments, there was no difference in performance whether people had to shift from the “forest” focus of the larger letters to the “tree level” of the smaller ones or whether the shift was in the opposite direction. That suggests that the lower scores were not related to creative people being more focused specifically on either detail or on general patterns.
The research may help explain why autistic people, who tend to focus obsessively, can often be highly creative. Paradoxically, it may also help explain the link between attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and creative success.
“The general idea is that [people with ADHD] are not able to focus on anything,” says Zabelina, “But really there are two different parts of the disorder, and one is that if they really get interested in something, they become almost like autistic people: really focused, so much so that they are not able to practice anything else.” Indeed, between 30% and 50% of autistic people also have ADHD.
The combination of an ability to range widely from one thought to another and to focus when a good idea occurs may be the sweet spot for creative success. The trick is in the timing: to mind-wander enough when seeking ideas to hit on the best ones and then to zoom in and persist once the right solution has been found.
But the study makes clear that creative achievement may come with some trade-offs in mental flexibility, when the time comes to actually shift focus. Persistence certainly matters in creative achievement — but some creative folks may not know when to stop.