Clearing the Creative Cobwebs
By Eddie Vasquez, Writer at Girl.Copy
We’ve all seen them - be it all-too-popular clickbait websites featuring quizzes that tell you which Nickelodeon character you are after answering a few arbitrary questions, ranging from “What color is your hair?” to “What was your last meal?” Ultimately, we find that we waste half of the time we should be producing work browsing these black hole sites. I spend a lot of my time trying to discover new ways to increase my productivity, not because my boss is looming over my shoulder (she’s actually pretty great), but because I try to challenge myself daily in the hopes of making it in this competitive business.
So here’s the rub: I’m going to personally test some tips said to boost creativity. I’ll provide my honest feedback and separate the worthwhile from the bupkis.
· Alcohol Impedes Working Memory While Benefitting Creative Problem Solving
This is one of the most often discussed methods of boosting creativity. Virtually all of the greats were drinkers. Thompson, Duras, Parker - you name names, and I’ll tell you that they were most likely heavy drinkers. That being said, I only began casually drinking alcohol a few years ago, and hot damn if I don’t just ooze creativity when I’ve polished off a few. So naturally, I wanted to test this theory in real-time.
I was at my local coffee shop, sipping on a crispy black cold brew, when I felt a grumble in my stomach. I decided to pack it in and stroll on over to my favorite dive bar for a bite (they have great hot wings). As an honest writer, I will tell you that I sat in front of my laptop for about 30 minutes at the coffee shop, trying to think of a way to begin this post, but after moving to my local dive and two light beers later, the words started flowing from my fingertips like spit up from a newborn’s toothless mouth.
The downside is that after my third drink I became more sociable and less productive. Case in point: I got into a friendly discussion about how great the bar’s jukebox is. This somehow transitioned to a heated argument over the simple question, “what’s your favorite Dylan album?” Someone chimed in, saying, "Blood on the Tracks." Keep in mind at this point I was pretty buzzed and I just couldn’t understand how everyone’s favorite isn’t The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan so I had to see myself out of the conversation. Lesson learned, there’s a fine line to walk while drinking and writing (and discussing music) and I was a little too ambitious.
Rating: Worthwhile, if you know your limit (please drink responsibly!).
· Listening to Music Stimulates the Areas of the Brain that Controls Creativity
Drawing from my experience as a writer, I am always at my computer researching or writing. So naturally I always have a working soundtrack to back me up (atm: Hendrix - Live @ Woodstock). I can personally attest that music aids in lubricating the creative process. I find the genre to be a crucial factor in the amount of aid music can provide. Websites typically instruct readers to default to classical music. Here’s an example, and here’s another.
Unpopular Opinion Warning: I think the notion of classical music improving one’s wit is a copout at best. I’ve never felt productive while listening to Mozart or Beethoven — that’s not to deny the two wunderkinds’ brilliance — rather I find myself uninterested and tuning it out completely. I guess maybe I just haven’t ascended to that level of deep consciousness yet.
However, I am a big fan of jazz. There’s something about the democratic presence in the genre that satisfies me whenever I have a big project looming overhead. Each instrument has its chance to speak in the form of solos before the combo returns to the original chord progression. I’m a huge sucker for all things bass, so naturally I find my brain works fastest whenever I hear Charles Mingus or Paul Chambers plucking away at their uprights. Some of my other favorites are Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis (I sometimes fantasize about naming my hypothetical son Miles after the legend himself). Next time you need to get some creative work done, table the monotonous music of the 18th century composers and opt for something more stimulating and modern. You’ll thank me for it.
Rating: Worthwhile, if you find something you can groove to.
· Color Affects Brain Cognition: Red for Attention, Blue for Creativity
There have been studies pertaining to the effects primary colors have on the brain’s cognition and performance. Anyone who has ever made a habit of driving a car knows that red means “stop” and green means “go.” But how do colors affect creativity and attention? According to a study by the University of British Columbia, “blue boosts creativity, while red enhances attention to detail.”
I’m no scientist instead so I’m not in the position to outright deny the worth of the PhD candidate's’ hours of research, sampling, testing, and testing again; but rather I’ll deny their study’s results on a personal level. Colors don’t seem to have much of an effect on my level of productivity. This is a rather difficult test to see results with from the comfort of my apartment without electrodes fixed to my temples so that scientists might monitor my brain activity.
I suggest rather than changing the background of your desktop to blue, green, or red, sit by a window! Forget the artificial colors. Everything you need to feel inspired lies behind two panes of glass. My home desk is nestled in the corner of two windows so I always have a myriad of sights to see, passers by with their dogs, rainstorms, nesting birds, and (the most important of all) trees. When sunshine and the breeze commingle with trees and their leaves and quartet gets to singing. . . I’ll put it this way there’s seldom I find more visually striking than Mother Nature at work.
Rating: Bupkis (sorry UBC PhD candidates).
There you have it. Some methods of boosting creativity are worthwhile, while still others are, well, bupkis. I think you’ll find that everyone is different and certain stimulants affect certain personalities differently. My manic personality thrives off of hedonistic vices while yours might get by with a cup of herbal tea. Lucky for me I work from home and have the ability to have a drink or two in order to personally test the theory of alcohol and creative productivity.
Try it out! I’d love to hear some feedback.