The Science Of Creativity And How To Fight A Creative Block

Can you become more creative? How does your brain create things? What is a creative block and how do you fight it? If you use creativity in any aspect of your life, then these are questions you might want to have the answer to.

Creativity is not only about art. We use creativity almost everyday in our life. And probably in every business out there, creativity is one of the main requirements. In order to be successful in any field you have got to be creative.

But what is creativity and how can you be creative?

Let’s find out.


Jump to:


What is creativity?

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible or a physical object.

And in the words of a great creator:

Creativity is just connecting things.
When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs

What is the science behind creativity?

Did you ever wonder about what happens in your brain when you come up with an idea or manage to solve a problem? How does your brain create things?

It has been suggested in one study that creativity is a twofold process, in which an initial improvisatory phase, characterized by spontaneous generation of new material, is followed by a period of focused re-evaluation and revision.

And apparently, contrary to general belief that there is a specific part of your brain (the right side) that is responsible for creativity, creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

The creative process however involves both sides of the brain. This process is divided into four parts: Preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.

Graham Wallis, a researcher, explained the four-stage process that goes through the person’s brain when they try to come up with a creative solution to a problem as follows:

1. In the preparation stage, we define the problem or desire, and gather any information the solution needs.

2. In the incubation stage, we step back from the problem and let our minds contemplate and work it through. Like preparation, incubation can last minutes, weeks, even years.

3. In the illumination stage, ideas arise from the mind to provide the basis of a creative response. These ideas can be the entire solution or just pieces. Unlike the other stages, illumination is often very brief, involving a tremendous rush of insights within a few minutes or hours.

4. In verification, the final stage, one carries out activities to demonstrate whether or not what emerged in illumination satisfies the need and the criteria defined in the preparation stage.

The first and last stages are left brain activities, while the second and third stages belong to the right brain.

How can one become creative?

I didn’t know that you can “become” creative. I thought creativity was mainly a gift. Some people are born creative and others are not, and that’s it.

But it turns out there is a lot more to creativity than that. While there is a genetics part to it, creativity is mostly developed through experience.

Creativity is a muscle you develop.

Mark Rober

It all depends on the experiences you have been through and how you train your brain to use the information it has.

Creativity is your ability to bring the most unrelated things and create a connection between them.

If you know hip hop music, then you probably know what freestyle is. Freestyle is a style of improvisation in which unrehearsed lyrics are recited with no particular subject or structure; where rappers use random words that has nothing to do with each other and create a rhyming lyrical content. This is one great example of how creativity works.

A study was made on a number of freestyle rappers in 2012. The scientists asked a number of rappers to freestyle lyrics and scanned their brains while they were rapping those random words, to find a way to figure how creativity works and what happens in the brain during the creative process. You can read more about this study here.

I’ve read a number of articles and watched a few videos on this subject of being creative and one of those that stood out for me was a TEDx talk by Balder Onarheim.

He gave three ways you can practice creativity and I found them quite interesting.

  1. Think of 3 unrelated words while brushing your teeth
  2. Use your dreams to solve a problem
  3. Use Wikipedia’s “Random Article”

Tooth Brush

He asks you to challenge yourself while brushing your teeth, before you go to bed every night, to come up with three words that are completely unrelated to each other. And then try to create some form of connection. This is something similar to being able to freestyle.

This is a way for you to train your brain to find connections between things that wouldn’t normally have a connection, and that on the long run strengthens your creative abilities.

Dreams

First of all, there are four stages of sleep, the fourth and last one of them is the rapid eye movement (REM) stage which is when we are dreaming and this stage takes place every 90-110 minutes, this is how long it takes for a complete sleep cycle.

And if you wake up right after this stage, you will be able to remember clearly what your dream was about.

And, in the video, Onarheim suggests that before you go to sleep, think of all the information you have on a certain problem or block that is stopping you, but don’t try to solve it, only recite the details as if giving raw information to someone else.

Because in dreams there are no rules and no constraints on what can and can’t happen. There is no logic; your mind wanders freely, and so you would most likely be able to find a connection that you weren’t able to see or figure something that you weren’t able to think of while awake.

You may want to read this article about how to use your dreams to solve a problem as it also suggests some ways to help you remember your dreams better.

And here is a number of famous examples where people got their best and most famous ideas from their dreams.

Wikipedia

The third suggestion is if you are stuck right now and need to come up with a solution, you may use something like Wikipedia’s Random Article option and regardless of what this article is about, you must read and find some form of solution out of this article.

I tried this one myself when I was stuck and while it didn’t direct me to the exact idea I was looking for, it did help in the brainstorming process.

There are many more things you can do to work on your creativity, read those other 9 ways to become more creative.

9 ways to become more creative in the next 10 minutes. on pinterest.
image from mission.org Click to Pin It on Pinterest.

What is a creative block?

So when you have worked on your creativity and practiced all the ways, and you’ve successfully become a creative person now!

Then all of a sudden your mind surprises you with creative blocks. It is when your mind refuses to let loose and create more. It is the inability to access your internal creativity.

And it often seems to happen when you’re in a desperate need of being creative. Because that’s how life works apparently.

My experience with a creative block this week

This past week, among a few other things, a block was in the way of me writing something new and caused me to be late for the first time to publish my blog post.

I received a call from my father a few days ago and I told him I feel bad because it seems like I will miss this week’s post and when he asked me why, I didn’t know what to say, because when I tried to find a reason, I couldn’t come up with one. And I felt so stupid.

The initial thought I had of the reason I couldn’t create something was because I wasn’t feeling it. I simply thought I lacked the motivation to do it.

But when I put more thought into it, I realized it was because I felt too much pressure. I felt like I had to put something out there that was so well-thought-out, perfectly researched and executed.

I needed to put a perfect article, but I wasn’t in the state of mind to create something this good and I didn’t have enough time, which added even more pressure.

And even though, deep down, I know that done is always better than perfect, I couldn’t make myself publish something that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with.

I have spent four days in a row in a mental fight with myself. And it was something like this:

I need to create something, but I don’t have the energy because there is too much pressure and too little time, and it needs to be perfect, but I can’t create perfect. I suck.

When I finally missed the deadline and couldn’t manage to publish anything in time, feelings of pressure were replaced with feelings of guilt. I was still facing the mental block but I was no longer anxious, I was simply sad.

However, when I was no longer anxious, I was able to think more clearly. And what I learned through this process is to identify what the voices in my head are saying.

I simply lost the purpose of my blog and this is why I felt the pressure and felt that I had to have a perfect article published.

The purpose of this blog was for me to learn something new every week, it is a way for me to document what I learn, this is why I started it.

However, recently this perspective started to shift and I started to think of it as a way to teach people something new.

This change of perspective, though might seem trivial, has hugely impacted my entire process. It was no longer about self-improvement, it has become an obligation towards others. It has become a pressure to put something that matches people’s expectations.

And that was what caused my creative block.

I just had to go back and think and realize why I got stuck in my head in the first place.

Once I realized this, and once I got this initial perspective back, I carried on with my process as usual. I realized that I don’t have to get it perfectly right every single time, not every week’s article needs to be “the best article I have ever written.”

It’s fine to put something that is not my absolute best, and work on enhancing later, or create something better the following week.

No one can get it right all the time. And no has to get it right all the time.

How do you fight a creative block?

I’m sure every creative person has to go through a creative block at one point throughout their creative process. It can cause loss of motivation and a lot of self doubt.

And it can be difficult to get past a creative block, but being aware of when and why a creative block develops can help in avoiding it.

I have read somewhere that in order to fight a creative block, you first need to identify your resistances.

A resistance is whatever it is that keeps you from creating. It is that internal voice in your head that tells you, “don’t create anything today.”

It could be fear. Fear of failure or rejection, fear of judgment, fear of facing an audience.

It could be a voice telling you no one cares about what you create.

It could be your mind telling you there is someone out there who is doing it better anyway.

It could be you comparing your work with someone else’s and feeling you will never match their talent and execution.

There are so many reasons as to why you will have this voice telling you not to create, and to be able to fight it, you will have to give yourself a moment to realize why it is telling you this.

Once you realize your resistances, you can then work on eliminating them.

Think of a creative block like having your brain in a cage, once you know what the cage is made of, you will be able to unlock it.

In my case, it was losing perspective of my process, losing the vision and also the need for perfection. When I identified those things, the resistances, I managed to get my perspective back and realize I was wrong, and that helped me get out of this block.

You may want to check this article that discusses a number of reasons as to why you may have a creative block and suggests some solutions for each one.

It is also worth mentioning that in some cases people can consider several types of therapy to help them with creative blocks.

Click to Pin It on Pinterest.

Suggestions from the Twitter-verse

I asked creative people on Twitter about what things they do that helps them get out of a creative bock and there were a lot of good suggestions, and some of them could be helpful to whoever reads it.

“I make a list of ideas I want to write about. Organization and accomplishment are big motivators for my writing. I also clean when I’m in a slump, b/c I’m more productive in a clean/organized environment.”
The Prepping Wife

“I just have to walk away and do something else. Inspiration usually strikes when I’m in the shower or about to fall asleep.”
Mom of the Moment

“I keep lots of different projects going at once. If i get burnt out on one, there’s usually another style, another topic, that i can write about.”
Kella Hanna-Wayne

“I usually turn on a documentary or series on PBS which slso tends to get my inspiration spinning. I also find cider helps too – a glass tends to help make me more confident and less doubtful.”
Peacoat Travels

“I also find that reading a book unrelated to anything I do helps. I’m a musician and have recently started writing for fun. Reading gets me out of my own head.”
My Unexpected Life

“Visiting a place I haven’t been to before or in a long time.”
Sean Flac 2.0

“I actually play video games haha. Or go for a walk if it’s nice out.”
In Asian Spaces

“A long run to clear my thoughts or a little girl time with friends usually inspires me — especially the topics that come up (some may not be appropriate for my blog, but they inspire none the less).”
LifeTravelStilettos

“I disconnect from technology, social media & the society. So as to reconnect with my soul and my creativity in nature and silence.”
Neha Gunnoo

“Depending on my creativity to keep a roof over my head means I don’t have the luxury of blocks. I dig in & do the work. When it gets tough, I’ll switch projects for awhile, or do something physical. Or shower. I work through tough plot points in the shower.”
Devon Ellington

“Sit down and write out a first draft with as many related words as possible. So if I’m interested in writing about fitness I would think about related keywords and jot them down, this gets the creative juices flowing…”
Underground Fitness

“Watch something on Netflix, read a small book, take a stroll, start writing in a little notebook, listen to some music. Those are all warmups to me.”
M. Lanen-de Vries

If you have other methods you use to fight creative block yourself, please share them in the comments below.

Till next week, happy days!

To receive more exclusive tips, hop on board and join the journey!

Advertisements

The 5 Dangers Of Sitting In A Bad Posture For Hours

Sitting for too long is bad for your health. Sitting for too long in the wrong posture is A LOT worse.
Read about the dangers and what you can do to avoid them in this post.

Disclaimer: I am an engineer. I have nothing to do with medicine and I don’t give any medical advice. Thank you.

A post on health might seem like an odd topic to find here given the theme of this blog; however, this topic is directly related to my journey. In fact, the entire thing is dependent on it.


Jump to:


Working on this blog is something I do while sat down. But it’s not just that, almost everything I’m doing, I do while sitting down starring at something, either reading for studies, writing assignments/homework, working on every single job I’ve ever had, watching TV, typing a blog post, researching a topic, or just scrolling through social media pages, etc.

That is a lot of sitting down! And this can be seriously dangerous if you are not paying attention to how long you are doing this and the way you are actually doing it.

I have been suffering from neck and shoulder pain for quite a long time, but only in recent months did it become so intolerable that I was forced to do a checkup, to find I have severe tight neck muscles and some kind of irritation in my cervical spine nerves (aka a pinched nerve).

An irritation in the cervical spine causes “pain that radiates into the shoulder, as well as muscle weakness and numbness that travels down the arm and into the hand.”

I have been taking medications and getting ultrasound therapy. But it’s not like the flu; and it doesn’t go away that quickly or that easily. I have been getting treatment on and off for the past 5-6 months. And many of the medications I have taken had some nasty side effects. So this is no walk in the park, it is bad and painful.

And I must say that, for the most part, I have been entirely dependent on the medications alone to do their magic and fix this, without much effort on my part.

But I’ve reached to a point where I got sick and tired of always being in horrific pain whenever I have to use my arm to carry something or, mistakenly, lean on it when I’m getting out of bed and feel as if a power drill is punching a hole through my shoulder.

So, I started to do some reading into this to try and find things that I can do on my part, to help fix this along with the medications.

But, first, let me tell you how bad this can actually get and why you should pay attention too!

How Sitting For Long Periods Of Time Affects Your Health

Sitting is the new smoking is a study made in the US claiming that sitting for one hour straight is as unhealthy as smoking two cigarettes.

They explain that sitting still for over 6 hours a day is as unhealthy for your body as smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes in a day. 

And that according to a study focused on the causes of chronic diseases, it is found that sitting for long hours is the number one contributer to developing a chronic disease (in the US).

Another study conducted by a number of leading professors in the UK was made on sedentary behaviour and its effect on both young and adults. And it concludes that sitting for long durations of time can cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and early death.

How To Avoid These Issues

It is highly advised that in order to avoid the serious health issues that accompanies sitting for too long, you should have a break every 30 minutes.

So every 30 minutes you need to get up for one or two minutes; you can do some stretches, walk to get a drink, or just do any kind of movement to break the idle position that your body has been in for the past 30 minutes.

There are some apps that are created specifically to help you do that, or you can simply set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes to work as a reminder that it’s time for you to move.

5 Ways A Bad Sitting Posture Affects Your Health

Image by medicaldaily.com

As per multiple studies and scientific researches made on the negative side effects of sitting in a wrong posture, it is found that your sitting posture can affect you in many more ways than just the way your body looks.

1. Back and spinal column

Starting the list with the more obvious problem that arises from sitting in a bad posture: back pain.

Sitting in a wrong posture can cause pain in the upper back, lower back, and the neck. The pain can also spread to include your arms, hands, legs and feet, depending on the part affected in the spinal column.

One of the medical conditions it can lead to is a pinched nerve.

Beside the fact that it causes a lot of pain, a pinched nerve, if left untreated, can cause chronic pain and permanent nerve damage which can lead to a disability, depending on the area controlled by the affected nerves.

And it is quite alarming to know that, according to this research, for every 2.5 cm your head moves forward, you add 0.45 kg of extra wight on your spine. A human’s head weighs between 4.5 and 5.5 kg.

So, if you are starring down at your phone, for example, that is about 13 cm of leaning forward which adds 5.85 kg of extra weight on your neck and spine. Adding to that the actual head weight, and you get an average of 11 kg of weight that is being dragged by your neck and spinal column. That is also the average weight of a 2-year old child.

2. Lungs and breathing

When you are sitting in a pitched forward position, the lungs slump forward and become compressed with the diaphragm moving up further in the chest which decreases the amount of oxygen entering your lungs by 30%.

Decreasing your oxygen intake, in turn, affects your energy levels and your ability to concentrate. It will also lead to feelings of fatigue and cause headaches.

3. Blood pressure

According to a study made in the UK, scientists found that sitting in the wrong posture where your shoulders and back are slouched is likely to affect your blood pressure.

The neck muscle cells signal the brain when sensing movement in the neck, to ensure adequate blood supply as the body changes posture. This system, however, breaks down when cells incur damage from poor posture, resulting in blood pressure either higher or lower than optimum.

4. Digestive organs

Sitting in a slouched posture compresses the digestive organs which can make them incapable of functioning properly. It slows the movement of your intestines which can cause digestion problems such as bloating or constipation.

This effect on digestive organs can also impact your metabolism.

5. Mental health

From my own take and what I noticed, when you are slouched in your chair, it creates a feeling of laziness and sometimes you’d feel down or easily irritated, unlike when you are straightened up, it feels like you are more open, awake and active.

And according to this research publication, the posture in which you are sitting does indeed affect your mood. A bad/slouched posture leads to being more prone to and easily affected by negative thoughts and emotions; while sitting in an upright position reduces stress and generally enhances the person’s mood and their mindset.

And as another experiment concluded, people that sit in an upright posture tend to easily remember more positive memories and have positive thoughts than those in a bad posture.

What Is A Good Sitting Posture?

There are a few things that you need to pay attention to when you sit down in order to make sure you are in the right posture.

  • Your feet should be flat on the ground with your knees making a right angle and are at the same level as your hips or slightly lower.
  • Your back is straight and chest is stretched so that your shoulders are not slouched/arched.
  • Your head is positioned where your chin is parallel to your hips and your ears paralleled to your shoulders.
Image by medicaldaily.com
A video by posture coach Michelle Janice showing how to sit up straight.

5 Things To Help Maintain A Good Sitting Posture

All that doctors have been saying over and over is that I should keep a good posture, “try to always sit with a straightened back and stretched
shoulders and don’t lean forward with your head.”

So, I am completely aware that this is what I am supposed to do. But how do I keep that posture for the entire 5-7 hours I am sitting on my laptop?

I’m only able to maintain this position when conscious about my posture, but then I get distracted with what I’m actually doing and, an hour later, I find myself back to the hunched-over-the-laptop position with slouched shoulders and forward neck again.

This happens because, to me, this is the more natural and comfortable position, where I don’t have to be all the way stretched. So, I needed a more practical solution.

Here are 4 things I do that can help keep a good, healthy posture for as long as you are sitting.

1. Sit on a cushion

Because sometimes the desk and chair I’m sitting on are not in good alignment where my arms and elbows are in a perfect straight line position.

In my case, it is usually that the chair is lower than the desk, and so I sit on a cushion which helps me maintain that position.

2. Roll pillow behind your back

This has been a real savior. Because, like I mentioned earlier, it can get really uncomfortable when I try to keep my back in a straight position for a long time, so putting a roll pillow* or roll cushion behind my back works as a support for the middle part of my back which both makes me feel way more comfortable and it sort of automatically enhances the way I’m sitting anyway without much effort on my part.

But even when I tend to slouch a little bit, it also works as a continuous reminder to get back to the right position.

3. Place the laptop at an arm’s length

This could be something that most people do already, but I only realized that recently and, oh my god, it is such a relief when I type now.

I have always had my laptop placed right at the edge of the desk and so my arms and elbows are usually just hanging the entire time I’m typing, which causes more pressure and therefore more pain in my shoulders.

How to make sure that you are in a good, comfortable posture where your arm is always supported is if you push the laptop far on the desk, so that your arms up until your elbows are supported by the desk itself and then type that way.

There is also a really helpful video that shows even more ways to help you keep a good posture, not just while sitting on a computer but when watching TV, playing games, or using your phone. You can watch it here.

4. Set a timer

Setting a timer to alert you every 15-20 minutes can work as a reminder to both move around or straighten up and correct your posture. There are even some phone and computer apps that can help you do this.

But if you are not interested in an application, you can simply create several alarms on your phone, or a timer every 15-20 minutes, as a posture reminder.

5. Stretches

One of the things that can help maintain a good posture at all times is if your body feels relaxed and comfortable at that posture. And one way to get your body to that level of comfort is if you do certain stretches that help with the back and upper body’s flexibility, so that keeping a straightened back and stretched shoulders no longer feels uncomfortable or weird (or, like me, makes you feel like a cyborg).

Below are some example stretches that I do. You can find more of them and information about each pose and its benefits here.

Standing cat-cow. Image by yoffielife.com.
Active child’s pose. Image by yoffielife.com.

Downward-Facing dog stretch. Image by forteyoga.com

Standing forward fold pose. Image by forteyoga.com

And eventually, if you are already suffering (like me), here are a few things to help with that too.

5 Things To Help Relief Back Pain

1. Heating pad

Placing a hot water bottle* or a heating pad* (this is the one I use) on the area of your back or neck that hurts can reduce the pain, because the heat relaxes the muscles and speeds the blood flow to that area. This is one of the things that I have been advised to do for my neck and shoulder pain and part of the physical therapy treatment I am getting.

2. Herbal cream

There are some herbal creams available that help ease muscle pain. They are made entirely of natural ingredients; however, you should still consult a doctor before using any.

You would simply take a sufficient amount of cream on the tip of your fingers and start applying it on the affected area. It can work even better if you do so after you have applied the heating pad.

3. Massage

A massage, especially in the neck and shoulders area, can work as a great pain relief because mostly the pain in this area is caused by the pressure put on those muscles to hold your head. So, by massaging that area, you help those tightened muscles to loosen and relax.

You can simply massage the area with your hand, go to a spa, or you can buy a massager that you can use at home or at work. (I found the latter to be a more convenient option and so I use a similar Shaitsu massager to this one*).

4. Stretches

Doing the same stretches above can also help relief back pain. But you can find more exercises related to relieving back pain in this article.

5. Medical treatment

This is of course an obvious step to take if you are indeed suffering from such pain, because leaving it untreated for a long time can cause even more damage which would take a longer treatment period or worse, could cause a permanent damage to your body.

So make sure you consult your doctor to get the right advice and treatment needed for your situation.

5 dangers of sitting a bad posture for hours and 5 ways to correct your posture. on Pinterest
Click to Pin it on Pinterest.

Till next week, happy days (and healthy bodies)!

Disclaimer: Links with* are affiliate links. Meaning that, at no additional cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links, you are supporting me to get a small commission from this sale.