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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why we have our best ideas in the shower: The science of creativity

This blog article, by Leo Widrich at Buffer, doesn't answer the question about creative showering until it first briefly discusses brain activity during the creative process. Free-style rap is his example. 

That was fascinating, as he says, but I moved on quickly to read Widrich's comments on a phenomenon I experience. And that discussion concludes with some helpful suggestions for action: "3 most successful ways to capture your creative spirit."

Summarizing his introduction, Widrich writes (note his boldfaced words):
So, the areas in our brain, that we use to make decisions is largely inactive. The “medial prefrontal cortex” area, which is responsible to learn association, context, events and emotional responses however was extremely active on the other hand.
He then jumps into the shower and lathers on about the effect of the chemical dopamine, with a helpful graphic. Widrich scrubs and rinses the dopamine by describing the showering effects on creativity of distraction and a relaxed state of mind.

Quoting a Harvard researcher:
In other words, a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.
And then, quoting someone named Bhattacharya within a quotation by recently published writer on creativity Jonah Lehrer:
‘That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers,’ Bhattacharya says. ‘For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.’ It’s not until we’re being massaged by warm water, unable to check our e-mail, that we’re finally able to hear the quiet voices in the backs of our heads telling us about the insight. The answers have been their all along–we just weren’t listening.
About capturing that creative spirit, Widrich writes (his boldfacing):
From all the research I have read, this is the most important thing to take away I found: Every day, everyone of us is extremely creative. The trick is not to optimize for how to spark your creative spirit. The trick is to make sure you capture it, whenever it happens.
Keep a notebook with you at all times, he writes, in the car, in the gym, while running, while grocery shopping, and even in the shower:
These are some of the most typical activities where our creative moments happen, capturing them then and there is absolutely crucial.
Widrich then shows a photo and links to a site that sells a waterproof notepad for capturing ideas in the shower. I might get one!

Update: While in the shower, I was thinking about my blog and the Widrich article. To capture my thoughts outside the shower, I thought, I need to get a voice recorder to be my "notebook." But then I thought: There must be an app for that ... for my smartphone. I need to get one. 

Also, I'd add working out on aerobics and weight machines to Widrich's list of places where we should carry and use a notebook. I don't run, but ideas are always running through my head on those machines. 

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Widrich's article is featured today, March 7, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Creativity Connections, available the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

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