Many popular theories about creativity break the process into stages. The most mysterious of these intervals is incubation. Over the years, psychological studies and real life breakthroughs have come to suggest the best ways to use this step.
In general, creative thinking starts when you identify an issue and prepare to tackle it. Next, you hit an impasse and decide to take a break. Then, the answer comes to you while you’re taking a shower or getting up from a nap.
That productive rest period before the Eureka moment is called incubation.
Guiding Principles for Effective Incubating
Prepare carefully. This is the time to do your research and engage in critical thought. Figure out the challenge you want to solve and state it precisely.
Plan ahead. Incubation is more effective when you remind yourself that you’ll be returning to your dilemma later. Look forward to coming back feeling refreshed and full of new answers.
Slow down. Think about coming to a gradual stop rather than slamming on the brakes. Allow your body and mind to quiet down. Take a few deep breaths. Relax your neck and shoulders. Observe your thoughts without pursuing them.
Choose non-demanding activities. If you spend your break studying calculus or the Peloponnesian War, it’ll be difficult to get anything else done. Devote your time to routine tasks that require little thought.
Let your mind wander. Relax and let your thoughts flow. Free yourself from any expectations and see what happens.
Play more. Clowning around stimulates your imagination. Lighten up and have a good laugh.
Keep it brief. You may find that the results you want are already close at hand. Short breaks often work better than taking a whole day off. Take it easy for about a half hour.
Appreciate the value of sleep. REM sleep unleashes creativity in amazing ways. When you dream, you form associations and consolidate memories. You’re able to see things differently and spot new opportunities.
Practical Strategies to Encourage Incubation
Take a nap. Get work done while you sleep. You’re likely to perform better after you lie down for 15 or 20 minutes.
Keep a journal by your bed. If your day job keeps you on your feet, make the most of your overnight slumbers. Have a pen and paper handy to jot down your thoughts when you wake up in the wee hours.
Meditate daily. Meditation and sleep have similar effects on the brain. Carve out five minutes to sit down and calm your mind.
Play with kids. Cut back on weekend appointments so you can spend time goofing around with your kids. Toss a Frisbee or throw a tea party.
Get a dog. If you sometimes get too busy to remember to play, a dog will help you get back on track. They like sharing their toys.
Exercise outdoors. Connecting with nature always helps. Break out your ice skates or bathing suit depending on the season.
Develop a new hobby. Lots of great artists and scientists have engaged in pastimes that created an atmosphere conducive to their accomplishments. For example, Emily Dickinson baked cakes. You may get inspired doing needlework or repairing clocks.
Clean house. Just doing the laundry or vacuuming the living room carpet may reveal your inner talents. Find chores at work and home that keep your hands busy and your mind free.
When it comes to triggering creative insights, not all rest is created equal. If you want to boost your creativity, make time to play and harness the power of your dreams. You’ll be surprised with the incredible payoff.
Everyone has the ability to be creative - including you!
Once you learn how to unleash your inner creativity, you'll be able to tap into it, no matter what else is going on in your life. You might even be amazed at what you're really capable of!
Discovering your inner creativity begins with looking inside yourself. The idea of "looking within" might seem foreign or even silly, but it's really not as crazy as it sounds! There are many successful people who understand the benefit of turning inward for inspiration, happiness, and decision-making. You may not always profit from your creativity. In fact, more often than not, your ingenuity will only benefit you and your family, and that's okay!
Your creativity can still bring you great joy and happiness! Some people write, draw, compose music, build sculptures, or paint. There are plenty of creative pursuits for you to explore and enjoy. Even redecorating your house, revitalizing your wardrobe, or experimenting in the kitchen can be a creative outlet for you. After all, someone has to try new things, or the world would never change. So let that person be you!
Tips to Focus on Your Inner Creativity
If you haven't given much thought to your inner creativity, getting started can be the hardest part.
Here are some things to think about:
• What do you do for a living?
• What are your hobbies?
• What would you do if you could do anything?
• Who would you be if you weren't worried about the judgment of others?
Ask yourself these questions - especially the last two - openly and honestly, and discover your answers. You just might be astonished about what you find out about yourself.
Perhaps it's time to take that hobby and turn it into a living. Maybe it's time to shake off the idea of living for others and begin to live for yourself. Today is a new day to be creative, and a new day to touch the hearts and minds of others with what you have to offer the world.
Are you worthy or capable? Of course you are! Let your inner creativity come pouring out.
Once you've started to discover your creativity, practice and experiment with it:
• Make it a point to be creative every day.
• Try new ways to do things, even routine chores.
• Seek creative solutions to your challenges at work and home.
• Any time you do something differently or see something from a new perspective, you're flexing your creativity.
Continue your exploration by branching out into entirely new hobbies and activities that help you in your pursuit of original creativity. Try expressing yourself in music, dance, writing, painting, or even crafts or woodworking.
There are people who simply don't like change. You might even know some of them. As your inner creativity comes out, these people may not support you. That's okay, because it's not their life to live. It's not their race to run. Focus on what you feel in your heart and surround yourself with those who do support you.
Getting support from others can make a huge difference, but either way, you must be your own #1 fan! The best support comes from within, not from what others think is right or wrong for your life.
Using your creativity will inspire you to do even more with your life. You can't possibly imagine where your creativity can take you if you just let it out and enjoy it. It doesn't have to be perfect - and you don't have to be perfect - to bring great joy to yourself and to the world around you.
Image: Jason Briscoe
Do you ever feel stressed, overwhelmed, or boxed in? Developing your creativity is a great way to break up the monotony of your daily routines, release frustration or find more peace in your life.
In your search for your creative spark, you may discover talents you didn't realize you possessed, new activities that bring fun and excitement into your life, and new ways to relax and rejuvenate.
Try these ideas for developing your own creative outlet:
1. Delve into activities you know you like. What have you enjoyed doing in the past? Have you noticed that you have a knack for drawing, writing, painting, sewing, or making jewelry? Try some of the same things that have allowed you to be creative in the past.
• If you aren't sure about a particular creative outlet, start small. Avoid buying everything you need to really explore the new skill until you're certain that you've found something you'd like to stick with.
2. Take a class. If you can't easily think of a creative outlet on your own, consider taking a class, seminar, or workshop. You can try a variety of different creative arts from basket weaving to painting, from photography to belly dance.
• Check your local college campuses, arts and crafts stores and continuing education
schools to find weekend workshops and evening classes that teach these activities.
3. Write or journal. Writing and journaling can be a great creative outlet, whether you're free writing about your day or putting your feelings into words in the form of poetry or song..
• You don't have to become a published author to use writing as a productive creative outlet. If expressing your feelings on paper feels good to you, just enjoy the process.
4. Create gifts for others. Experiment with a myriad of different creative outlets by making things for the people that you love. Bake cookies, write a poem, draw a picture, paint pottery or handcraft a piece of jewelry for someone you care about.
• Not only do these tasks allow you to use creativity to deal with feelings and emotions, but they also let you share a part of yourself with people who are important to you.
5. Experiment with food. Whether you enjoy cooking, grilling, baking or candy making, you can experiment in the kitchen as a creative outlet. When you cook with feeling, you may be surprised with the results you create. You may find that you're more successful in your cooking and baking ventures when emotion is an ingredient.
• Share your creations with others. Regardless of whether you cook tasty meals or bake
sweet treats, your gift recipients are sure to enjoy them.
These ideas are just a starting point. There are plenty of other options for you to pursue on your own. Your creative outlet can be anything that you want it to be, as long as you get joy from it. Simply find something that brings you pleasure and use it as your creative outlet. If you do this, you can find joy and peace in every day