Last weekend, I read an article that listed six ways to boost creativity. The suggestions made are all based on scientific research, but after I read them I came away feeling confused. I’ve been uneasy ever since.
Boiled down, these are the six suggestions:
1) Write by hand (with pen and paper) in order to write faster and strengthen your memories.
2) A messy desk will help you generate new ideas.
3) Write all your ideas down somewhere.
5) Work in an environment with moderate background noise.
6) Take advantage of the odd connections your brain makes between sleeping and waking.
Nothing here is outlandish or unreasonable. But I found myself balking all the same. I kept arguing with specific points: “There’s no way I can write faster with pen and paper than I can type!” or “I like silence. I work best when things are really quiet.” Sure, I’ve got the messy desk. But anything that requires napping is going to be a challenge for me.
I feel like the content I produce when writing by hand versus typing on my computer isn’t necessarily better or worse. It’s just different. The different physical activity opens doors to a different way of thinking.
I have found that honoring my ideas by writing them down, good or bad, increases how many ideas I have. I’ve also plotted out book chapters while exercising, although I get the best results with repetitive, nearly mindless activities like pushing the mower around the yard.
So I agree with some of their suggestions, but not all of them. Science says these are the best ways, but my experience says that isn’t so.
If I believe the article, then I do not fit in. Emotionally, I flash back to my awkward painful teenage years when I seemed doomed to say the wrong thing and to discover that people I thought were my friends thought I was a joke.
I am on the outside, all alone.
The fallacy here is that because science says it is so, then it is so for everyone. But in the end, any scientific results are based on statistics. A majority of the people they observed were more creative with a messy desk, not every single person. That majority could be a mere 51% . Of course, it should be higher than that in order for the results to be worth reporting, so let’s assume it was 75%. Out of 100 artists, 25 would be more creative with a clean desk.
That’s a lot of people who don’t fit in.
I am not in the majority, but I am not alone, and I get a little consolation from this thought.
Most people are more creative with moderate levels of background noise, but not all of them. Some people write faster by hand, but some don’t. It makes me part of the minority, not the majority, but at least I am not alone in my preferences for the methods science dismisses.
If I have to be different, I can do it quite happily with other people like me.