Practical Tools and Wise Quotes on All Matters Creative
10.6. Environmental Unblocking
We are very sensitive to the world around us and respond, often subconsciously, to cues in our environment. We can work on de-sensitising ourselves to such contextual triggers, but the simplest way to manage environmental effects is to leverage them, creating an environment where we can consistently feel more creative.
Think about when you feel most creative. Is it in your workshop, or study, or walking in the woods? For many people, the ‘three Bs’ (bed, bath and bus) represent relaxed places in which they can think, unhindered by associations with the world around them. Wherever it is, or wherever you want to be creative, start to work on making it even better.
Go and look at the place where you invent. Is it really conducive to creative thought? Do you feel sufficiently relaxed and yet sufficiently stimulated? What would be the effect of changing furniture, the lighting or the colour of the walls? Are all your tools and materials to hand?
Many people have ideas when dropping off to sleep, when their physical environment is virtually nil. Picasso reputedly had a technique of sitting in a chair while holding a spoon above a tin plate on the floor. As he dozed off, the spoon would slip, falling to the plate with a clatter, waking him up. He would then quickly write down what was in his mind at the time.
Consider what you are wearing. Is it comfortable? Does it constrict you anywhere? Do you invent best washed and clean or when you are a bit grubby.
Does the furniture help? Is your chair comfortable? Is your desk at the right height? Is the lighting adequate? Would more natural light help? Does facing the window or a particular wall make a difference?
Is there the right amount of stimulation there? People who work more with internal thoughts may prefer a plain environment, whilst for others pictures and magazines can provide useful thought triggers.
How does eating affect you? Many people find that carbohydrates slow thinking and that proteins (not too much, though) enhance it. Try orange juice, fruit and eggs for breakfast, rather than coffee, cereal and toast. Also eat little and often, rather than big meals that led to your digestive system robbing your brain of blood.
What about the time of day? Some people work best by coming up with the basic ideas in the morning and developing them in the afternoon. Others are night hawks, performing best when the rest of us are sound asleep.
Sounds also can help. Is the environment quiet enough? Do you like music? Some people like Bach or Mozart, whilst others prefer more modern music.
And finally, consider distractions. Do people interrupt you? Is there a phone nearby which could disturb you? Will going somewhere quiet (or noisy!) help?
The overall answer to building a truly creative environment is to experiment. Try varying any of the above and more. Notice how you feel and notice how well you work (being too relaxed may not be the right state for you).
Other programmed responses
Remember the short-cut decision-making that we use? We have many rules of thumb, habits and programmed responses that steer us away from considered creative acts. Some of these are easy to break–all we need to do is recognise them and decide to act otherwise. Other internal programs are very subtle and difficult to spot or are so deeply imbedded that they require significant extra work to dislodge, possibly even with the help of a professional psychologist.