by Mark Underwood
Have you ever wondered where novelists, actors or writers find inspiration for their work?
Creativity is not a predetermined way of looking at the world—you can get inspired by almost anything, anywhere, anytime. All you have to do is be receptive to inspiration.
Some people inherit a highly developed sense of creativity or come to it naturally because they were raised in a creative environment. But most of us need some form of inspiration if we want to look at the world with a different perspective.
Whatever you call it–creativity, thinking outside the box or thinking sideways, creative thinking is all about looking at the world with a different twist, in a slightly different way than you usually do.
The good news is that inspiration is all around us.
Creativity can be used in many endeavors. In World War II it was used to save lives.
J.P. Guilford, a psychologist and father of modern creativity, came up with a game plan to test the creative thinking of bomber pilots in the U.S. Air Force in World War II. He designed a personality test to select the most creative pilots who were most likely to survive being shot down by using their creativity .
His question, “What would you do with a brick?” helped weed out pilots who weren’t good at thinking sideways or differently in dire circumstances. Try it yourself. Can you come up with 50 uses for a brick in 15 minutes or less?
Most of us fine-tune our creative side when we are exposed to new things around us. All of us are influenced by our experiences–whether they are theatrical productions, symphonies, films, TV or travel.
Look for something new to explore or learn. Then hold on to those experiences and use them to inspire you.
How did you feel when you listened to a magnificent choir or attended a concert in a park on a summer evening? Unleash those feelings to inspire your creative juices.
A mysterious process
Creativity is a complex neurological process. It’s not as easy to quantify. There’s no such thing as a light bulb over your head announcing a good idea.
But scientists have found that they can “see ideas” with a brain scanner. A few seconds before a person gets an idea, the area of the brain called the superior anterior temporal lights up.
No one path inspires creativity, but scientists have found that different parts of the creative process require different types of creative thinking. They have also learned that when we are resting, the superior anterior temporal (behind the ear) tries to send us messages of inspiration.
Albert Einstein may have summed up long naps and walks on the beach best when he said, “Creativity is the residue of wasted time.”
Tips for getting inspired
Most of us are creatures of habit, but you can ramp up your creativity if you try new things. Get in tune with these random influences:
- Change your TV watching habits. Most of us enjoy watching the same TV shows, but if you changed things up you might get new ideas. Use your remote to randomly watch programs that aren’t on your ‘favorites’ list.
- Change your Internet activity. Adults spend an average of 29 hours, 15 minutes browsing the Internet each month. Are you using the same web browsers, going to the same shopping or news sites? Try new sites that aren’t typically on your radar. You may get new ideas that unlock your creativity.
- Read differently. Push your comfort zone. If you read memoirs or biographies, try reading an historical novel, poetry, science and health or classic literature. Move around the house. Read in a different room or chair.
- Take a nap. Inner thoughts can give you intriguing new ideas.
- Get unstuck. Do something simple like taking a walk around the block at a different time of day. You may meet someone new or see nature differently when you change your routine. New things inspire new ideas. And that’s an inspiration worth taking a walk for any day.
Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company located in Madison, Wisconsin focused on the discovery and development of medicines to treat age related memory loss and the diseases of aging. Mark has been taped as an expert in the field of neuroscience for The Wall Street Journal Morning Radio, CBS and CNN Radio among others. Mark is also a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide” which highlights the research at Quincy Bioscience and offers practical tips to help keep health brain function in aging. More articles and tips for healthy aging can be found at: www.TheGoodNewsAboutAging.com.
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