How to jump-start creativity and get good ideas flowing
Build up a hunger for creativity by doing NOTHING
Engage with people whose backgrounds are radically different than yours
Use this Brainstorming platform as your parkour
Asynchronous alternation of focus between 2-3 different projects
- prevents you from burning out because switching the focus from hard work to "play" alleviates the tension while still keeps you productive, albeit in different directions
- thinking about and advancing in different fields puts you in a unique position where you can innovate by finding cross-disciplinary connections, repurpose and apply ideas/discoveries (examples: the Boring company's tunnels used by Tesla cars, SpaceX's steel and unbreakable glass used in Tesla's Cybertruck)
- warming up on something that feels fun at the time can get you in the state of flow, which then spills over into your main project that might have stalled
Ways to induce creativity just before you sleep
- Read about your problem before bed: A study explored the impact of sleep on the processing of information with strongly related word pairs and information requiring the formation of novel associations (unrelated word pairs). Participants were trained on a set of related or unrelated word pairs at either 9 am or 9 pm, and were then tested after an interval of 30 min, 12 h, or 24 h. At the 12 h retest, the memory of the unrelated word pairs was superior following a night of sleep compared to a day of wakefulness. This difference was due to deterioration in memory for unrelated word pairs when awake. There was no sleep-wake difference for related word pairs. At the 24 h retest, when all subjects received both a full night of sleep and a full day of wakefulness, the authors found that memory was superior when sleep occurred shortly after learning rather than following a full day of wakefulness. Also, the authors showed that the rate of deterioration when awake was significantly diminished when preceded by a night of sleep compared to no sleep, suggesting that sleep fortified the memories. So reading more about your problem will prime the brain for the creative thinking that will follow. You may have a fresh perspective that you didn’t have the night before.
- Ask yourself the question that you want to answer: Literally ask yourself the question aloud or to yourself. That propels the intrinsic (creative system) to work. You may then focus on something else to help you forget about the question to activate the creative part of your brain that works in the background.
- Lucid dreaming: Lucid dreaming is dreaming while being conscious of the fact that you are having a dream. However, it takes practice to recognize when you are dreaming. Waking up in the middle of the night and remembering the dream you were having and then going back to sleep, conscious that you were having this dream, can also help you enter a lucid dream state. You can stay in that dream and then explore impossible realities. Stephen LaBerge calls this the mnemonic induction of lucid dreaming (MILD technique).
Payne JD, Tucker MA, Ellenbogen JM, et al. Memory for semantically related and unrelated declarative information: the benefit of sleep, the cost of wake. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33079. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033079
Alternating between intense focus and easy, routine tasks (incubation period)
Browsing through lists of ideas
Read random research paper to develop novel strategies
Warm-up writing with a purpose
Introducing novelty into mundane habits
Light stimulants and psychedelics
Hungry, curious, creative.
Binge-read the best thoughts of your new favorite thinker
- Find a new Twitter account you like
- Use Twitter's advanced search function to filter by username, a high number of replies, and a high number of likes
- Binge read the resulting tweets until something sparks your creativity to go on a tangent and back to your work
Thinkalong - think about your problem while listening to someone's lecture
- an interesting lecture you have listened to before and is thus not new to you
- a high-quality lecture on a subject that is only mildly interesting to you
Walk It Out
Get some distance
The right amount of criticism
Motivation from ethics and money
Inducing a state of drowsiness on purpose
- identify times and places in your day when you are most prone to having creative thoughts
- be protective of that time and don't let any distractions spoil it for you
- capture ideas during that time
- be well-rested
- spend at least 20 minutes focusing hard on an area where you would like some progress to happen
- then go to your "magic" time/place
Creative thinking is a skill
Write a letter to someone without the intention of sending it
- small steps that compound and build up momentum
- an unexpected piece of insight that is sufficiently big to get the flywheel going
Optimal conditions for ideation
- Be well-rested.
- Be well fed and hydrated, including any micronutrients the body/brain could need.
- Have a clear goal.
- Remove all distractions for a lengthy period of time so that you can focus on the problem at hand. It could take multiple distraction-free focus sessions before progress is achieved.
- Focus on the same problem in multiple different environments. Literally, change your physical location and focus on the problem there.
A divergent approach to solving problems and cultivating natural motivation
Download, process, upload, feedback, share
- Download other people's ideas. This is the part where your brain gets the "raw material" to work with. Study the topic of your focus, read books, articles, watch videos - any source of information will do. Obviously, apply some quality filters and make sure the information is accurate. Consider this the "fishing" stage.
- Processing happens automatically, while you take in the info and even while you sleep. The moment when inspiration strikes (you feel motivated to put something into action) is where you move to the next stage. Give it time. It can take hours, days, or weeks.
- Upload your thoughts to a notepad. For the time being, this is solely for you to read and re-read. The goal is to organize your thoughts, see if they can be condensed to higher principles, see if you can make any new connections between the ideas, see how much you can simplify them, then reflect everything back to yourself. Refine everything into a cohesive concept worthy of other people's time.
- Ask for feedback from friends and iterate based on the feedback. Re-read your work a few times, over several days. See if you can refine it.
- Share the final work with everyone and further refine it based on the feedback.