Pump up Your Creativity

I've heard a lot of people say, "I'm not creative."  That's why I was really interested to read an article by Jonah Lehrer in the Wall Street Journal that said creativity is a skill you learn, not something you're born with. According to Mr. Lehrer, creativity involves a variety of skills that you use for different kinds of problems.  You use one kind of creativity to solve "moment-of-insight problems," another to solve "nose-to-the grindstone problems," and still another to solve problems with "mental restructurings."  I wanted to share the creativity boosters I took away from the article.

Moment of Insight Problems

Sometimes all you need is one great idea to solve a problem.  If you need a moment of insight, it helps to do things that relax or distract your brain, such as:

Watch a Comedy


Take a Shower

Play a Game

Get Drowsy

Get Drunk (I really can't recommend this one, but I think that must be how they wrote the 5th episode of season 2 of Downton Abbey. Just kidding!)

Surround Yourself with the Color Blue

Think like a Seven-year-old

Imagine Yourself Someplace Far Away

Get Out of Your Cubicle (literally)

Use More General Verbs to Describe the Problem (e.g. "move" instead of "drive")

Nose to the Grindstone Problems

A lot of times creativity means working really hard at a problem until you gradually come up with a solution.  To do this, you simply keep thinking about your problem.  Studies show that if you feel like you're on the verge of a solution, you probably are.  Trust your intuition.

Mental Restructurings

Other times, to solve a problem, you need information that's not already in your head.  You can expose yourself to new knowledge by:

Having Diverse Friendships

Learning Outside your Normal Field of Study

Spending time in Bigger Cities

Spending Time in Other Countries

Talking about the Problem with People who aren't Experts

Your Tips

I've had a lot of great ideas while I was distracted in the shower or car,  and while reading and washing dishes.  What are some things you do that help you come up with new ideas?


  1. This is so true! I have my best ideas while in the shower. It's odd, but I do. I keep a notebook under the sink so I can write them down as soon as I get out.

    1. I have never kept a notebook in the bathroom, Emily. I'll have to try that one.

  2. Many times I've been stuck while writing and I go lay down on the couch for 5 minutes. Sitting doesn't work. I have to lay down, close my eyes and imagine the solution.

    1. Kate, I just listened to a talk by Connie Sokol, and she does the same thing. I'll have to try that.

  3. For some reason, I come up with good ideas and solutions when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.


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