Ever wondered why the best ideas occur to you in the shower? Or while eating, or driving?
Ideas are strange gems. They don’t do so much as blink when you concentrate, and they shine with all the glory when you don’t care.
It’s never easy to coax an idea out of its hiding. In fact, the more you try, the farther you drive it away. So you might think that the less you try the more likely you are to happen upon new ideas. Is that right?
To some extent, yes. If you try too hard, the ideas become elusive like a fox. And you know, if your creativity is the engine that keeps you going, the ideas are the fuel that keeps the engine going.
So we reach an interesting, albeit confusing, dilemma. We have been told that thinking gets our creativity going, but then most of our experiences suggest otherwise. We tend to be most creative when we are not thinking, right?
Well, not really. When you think you are not thinking, you are thinking more vigorously than usual. When you are taking a bath, your brain produces more energy, power, and ideas. Not because you are getting clean, but rather, because you are not making an effort to think. The thinking happens on its own.
You might notice that in above sentences, I make it look like as though you and your thinking were two separate entities. After all, thinking can not happen on its own because it’s a part of you. It happens because you let it happen. Or in other words, your thinking is what you are.
I’d disagree. You’ve got two personalities in your head. One is creative, full of imagination and ideas. The other one holds a calculator in its hands, counting and measuring everything, drawing logical inferences from sensory inputs, and relaying the data to other parts of the brain.
Scientists call the latter conscious, and the former subconscious.
But we call the latter the inner critic, the cynical old fool, and a grumpy nay-sayer. This is the guy that thinks creativity is bad for you. It thinks indulging in deep and imaginative thoughts is hazardous for your survival.
We don’t blame it for being such a cynic. It has to process so much data and calculate it all to precision, it hardly has time for such tomfoolery as creative imagination.
Back to the point, when we think hard and try to be creative, our conscious rules out our efforts as unworthy of its time. Because of our brain’s limited capacity to process the data at any given point in time, it’s almost always overloaded with thoughts, memories, emotions, and countless other things, and so unable to please our whims at all times.
And since conscious comes before the subconscious, it refuses to take a backseat. To conscious, there are more pressing matters to be dealt with at any point in time.
However, there are situations when the conscious takes a break and goes in the background. And that’s when your subconscious has full control over your thoughts. This is the time when you feel light, happy, in a trance-like state, and full of creative juice.
You step into such a condition during a shower because:
Likewise, anything else you do that’s marked as a break from the work and other worries of life, triggers the creative mode in your mind. Be it eating, driving, or strolling with your pet dog, such activities take you into a creative haven.
On the other hand, when you are in an active mode, it’s far harder to slip into this fissure in an otherwise flat surface of conscious. Your inner critic will try everything it can to stop you from giving your subconscious temporary control over your thoughts.
Therefore, the only secret to be creative, and to think and come up with great ideas without making an effort is to take a break. Allow yourself to ignore everything else, blank out your conscious slate, and shut off all the data sensors.
It’s somewhat akin to self-hypnotism and meditation, but you are not required to learn any specific techniques to slip into your subconscious. You learn everything while you blank out.
So next time you need to be creative, go take a shower!