Eureka?! About being creative on demand.

Deadlines are my personal nightmare. Whether it’s a paper that I have to hand in for a lecture or an article that has to be published on time for our lovely TEDxVienna blog. Being creative on demand is not actually the easiest thing to do.

Gerhard Richter, a German painter, who told the following words in an interview with the New York Times in 2002, already knew this: “Weeks go by, and I don’t paint until finally I can’t stand it any longer. I get fed up[…]perhaps I create these little crises as a kind of a secret strategy to push myself. It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.”

Psychological examinations prove that most creative ideas often come from out of nowhere and occur to us at a time, when we are not looking for them. Some people like to go for a walk or take a hot shower, to consciously take a break from the work they are trying to do, but feel stuck in. This period of time, when you are consciously or unconsciously not focusing on a problem is called incubation and it led not very few great minds to having an AHA moment and inevitably brought them to the wonderful stage of TED.

But not all of us are creative geniuses. What about everyday “creatvitiy-on-demand”-solutions? Here are some tips that help you boost your creativity level in your day-to-day life:

  • For your open-plan office

„[…]an effective way to incubate a problem in need of a eureka moment is to switch to an unrelated, but still work-related, task. […]Anything that takes your mind off the problem at hand and gives your mind a break will boost your odds of having a eureka moment when you return to that problem. If you need a creative insight on demand, consider structuring your workday to leave some mundane tasks undone, saving them for when you need to incubate. When you switch back, you might just find yourself shouting “eureka.” (David Burkus)

  • For writers

“When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”(Haruki Murakami)

“In the shower, with the hot water coming down, you’ve left the real world behind, and very frequently things open up for you. It’s the change of venue, the unblocking the attempt to force the ideas that’s crippling you when you’re trying to write.” (Woody Allen)

Still not feeling inspired? Starting off with the very own curator of TED, Chris Anderson, we present you 5 epic TED Talks about creativity and about ideas, which rose from unexpected eureka moments:

1. Chris Anderson, Journalist and TED curator… about changing everything by changing nothing about TED.

„I watched everything that I’d built crumbling […] I started doing something that I’d forgotten about in my business focus: I started to read again. And I discovered that while I’d been busy playing business games, there’d been this incredible revolution in so many areas of interest: cosmology to psychology to evolutionary psychology to anthropology to… And what was really most exciting […]was that all this stuff is connected.“

2. Mena Trott, Blogger… about pursuing your dreams your dreams no matter what and revolutionizing the “bloggosphere”.

“I talk about myself. That’s what I am. I’m a blogger. I have always decided that I was going to be an expert on one thing, and I am an expert on this person, and so I write about it. […] And when I started my blog, it was really this one goal — I said, “I am not going to be famous to the world, but I could be famous to people on the Internet.”

3. Adam Garone, co-founder of Movember… about supporting men’s health by growing a moustache.

“Well, normally, a charity starts with the cause, and someone that is directly affected by a cause. […] Movember started in a very traditional Australian way. It was on a Sunday afternoon. I was with my brother and a mate having a few beers, and I was watching the world go by…”

4. Amy Tan, novelist… about why near-death is good for creativity.

„Also, one of the principles of creativity is to have a little childhood trauma. And I had the usual kind that I think a lot of people had […]And when you are faced with the prospect of death very soon, you begin to think very much about everything. You become very creative, in a survival sense.”

And finally: someone, who does not believe in eureka moments:

5. Steven Johnson, Writer… about the real truth behind gread ideas.

“We have this very rich vocabulary to describe moments of inspiration. We have the kind of the flash of insight, the stroke of insight, we have epiphanies, we have “eureka!” moments, we have the lightbulb moments, right? All of these concepts, as kind of rhetorically florid as they are, share this basic assumption, which is that an idea is a single thing, it’s something that happens often in a wonderful illuminating moment.”

Header image by Pixabay

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About Ece Isil Sahin

Ece has fallen for the arts since she was 5 years old. Growing up between backstage areas and theatre cafés, she is now majoring in Theatre-, Film- and Mediastudies at the Universitiy of Vienna.

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