Follow any ‘creative industry’ person on social media and you’re sure to get intermittent links to things like, “7 ways to inspire better ideas,” or “How to do your best thinking,” or “How to trick yourself into A-ha moments,” and so on. There are a whole lot of people who now make their living off of [shudder] trying to think outside the box, and so of course they all want tips on how to do so more often or more easily. As a natural consequence, there’s another whole economy of people willing to help them try via their magazines, seminars, make-a-thons or *cough* blogs.
Here are a couple I enjoyed recently. This one is basically telling me to sleep in to be more creative:
In a study published in the journal Thinking and Reasoning last year, researchers Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks reported that imaginative insights are most likely to come to us when we’re groggy and unfocused. The mental processes that inhibit distracting or irrelevant thoughts are at their weakest in these moments, allowing unexpected and sometimes inspired connections to be made. Sleepy people’s “more diffuse attentional focus,” they write, leads them to “widen their search through their knowledge network. This widening leads to an increase in creative problem solving.”
This one, from my favorite dreamy science writer Jonah Leher in Wired, takes it even further with a raise of the glass:
According to the data, drunk students solved more [insight-based] word problems in less time. They also were much more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight. And the differences were dramatic: The alcohol made subjects nearly 30 percent more likely to find the unexpected solution.
Once again, the explanation for this effect returns us to the benefits of not being able to pay attention. The stupor of alcohol, like the haze of the early morning, makes it harder for us to ignore those unlikely thoughts and remote associations that are such important elements of the imagination. So the next time you are in need of insight, avoid caffeine and concentration. Don’t chain yourself to your desk. Instead, set the alarm a few minutes early and wallow in your groggy thoughts. And if that doesn’t work, chug a beer.
What a great world it would be if being slower to rise or knocking back a few were the secret to success! We could shorten the work day and provide delicious beverages and spend all our time having epiphanies left and right until every whiteboard in the building is just covered with scrawled-out genius.
Unfortunately, this part of our jobs that we like to think of as central, chasing those magical creative-insight eureka moments, is really only a small fraction of anyone’s duties. An inspired thought is great, but then there’s all that work it takes to do something with it. 99% perspiration, remember? Do we need a whole cottage industry of people figuring out how to help us with that measly 1%? I think we sometimes just enjoy reading about how to do more creative thinking to avoid having to do the work part of the work that comes from creative thinking.
Not that I wouldn’t take the fewer-alarm-clocks, more-happy-hours approach if offered.
it’s no secret that i think jon stewart is one of the best people on tv, so naturally i quite enjoyed this NY magazine profile on him and his staff. a little ‘how the sausage gets made’ tour behind the scenes. (side note: NYmag puts out some amazing feature-length articles. i feel almost guilty that i’m tempted to subscribe, while i’ve never read an issue of LAmag… assuming there must be one, right?)
anyway, though the article deftly describes stewart and team’s approach to their uniquely whip-smart brand of comedy, there was an added little bit that got my attention as a person also in the ‘ideas’ business. not that i’m comparing what i do in either relevance or quality to what they do on the daily show, but still, they must have a pretty successful formula to put out such top notch stuff four nights a week most weeks of the year.
in rough terms, their process seems to be:
— get in early and get to work.
— get in a room with a lot of smart (and in this case, funny) people and toss things around, keeping the best stuff to dig into further.
— do your homework; or rather, have a team of people on hand to help with the details.
— as a corollary, don’t get buried in information yourself, because…
— things are getting rewritten right up until the last minute, and in the end you’ll know what works..
— and what doesn’t work. don’t be afraid to cut that part. go with your gut.
obviously it helps if you have incredibly smart, motivated people around you, but still, not a bad system. the main thing i’m missing is probably #3; maybe i should have got an intern after all…
“While happiness increases along with annual household incomes up to about $75,000, beyond that, earning more money has no effect on day-to-day contentment, according to the study….
“This study is consistent with a lot of other studies on the relationship between income and happiness or overall life satisfaction,” Maddux [a psychology professor] said. “What other studies have also shown is that money matters up to a point. But after a certain point, having additional money doesn’t make people like their lives better or feel better about themselves on a day to day basis.”
the above news item has popped up in lots of places, so i couldn’t help but share a few thoughts:
— lots of places are falsely saying that the ideal amount of money to make is $75k, which is a gross misinterpretation. obviously more money not making you substantially happier is not the same as it making you less happy, or does that money suddenly lose its power to buy things, or even be given away to help others. i hate when science is skewed to make better headlines. come on new york times, you’re better than that.
— i bet these stats differ pretty greatly for people with lots of college debt. there are probably plenty of newly graduated law or med students who could be a lot happier even at 75k.
— the fact that the median income is 52k explains a lot in light of this study. we’re a nation of people not quite financially comfortable enough to chill out about dumb things like where people build mosques. nor are we able to stop worrying about paying bills long enough to focus on bigger problems like ending wars (or even voting, for gods’ sake).
— lastly, how many people will cite this article when asking for a raise this year? “sure boss, a raise to 68k would be very generous, but for just a few thousand more i could be at optimum happiness!”