It was 8:00 PM and I’d hit a creative wall – hard. But there was so much work to be done! And I just had to get out of the office or else my article would never get finished. So I knew the only way to stimulate my mind was to practice a technique called “displacement.”
You’ve no doubt heard of (and probably practiced) this creativity booster before: take a different route to work, eat at a new restaurant or take an outside break – anything to change your environment. In fact, if you Google the word “creativity,” most of the articles will instruct you to practice some type of displacement technique. They’ll urge you to “stray off the beaten path” because changes in your surroundings will stimulate your senses and enhance your ability to generate new ideas.
But I think Michael Michalko said it best in his famous book on business creativity, Thinkertoys: “Your mind is like vegetation. It flourishes in one soil and droops in another.”
I read that quotation right as I hit my wall last night. Hmm...vegetation, I thought. That gives me an idea! So I took his advice – literally – and went to the one place I’d be guaranteed to find lots of vegetation: the grocery store.
Trust me; this wasn’t my first choice for a place to get some work done. But Starbucks was closed and all the local restaurants were too loud. However, I did remember noticing a line of computer tables in the produce section of the store a few weeks earlier.
It felt awfully strange walking into the grocery store at 8:30 PM with a briefcase in one hand and an Ipod in the other. Then again, I needed some mental stimulation, and I needed it fast. So, what better place to enliven all five of the senses than the produce section?
And it worked! Surrounding me were hundreds of fruits and vegetables of every color; crisp, cool air; and the aroma of fresh flowers and spices. It was everything my baffled brain needed. And within a few minutes, I was back on track with my article. New thoughts poured onto my laptop. Creative ideas came from out of the blue. I climbed over my mental wall!
Now, let’s talk about why this unusual displacement technique worked. Was it something in the air? Was it a coincidence? No. Creativity doesn’t know what the word “coincidence” means. It has to do with our thinking process. It has to do with displacement. Now, maybe the grocery store isn’t for you. But when your brain decides it doesn’t want to get creative anymore – and trust me, it will – you’ll need some techniques to help you break out of the same old mental rut. So, here are a few ways to motivate your melon.
Have you ever noticed how creative you get while exercising for extended periods of time?
That’s not a coincidence, either – it’s biological. According to Molecules of Emotion by Candace B. Pert, continuous exercise like running, long-distance swimming, aerobics, cycling or cross-country skiing appears to contribute to an increased production and release of endorphins. These endorphins are morphine-like substances that have strong affects on the brain and body during exercise. They result in a sense of euphoria that has been popularly labeled as the "runner's high."
For example, I run 8 miles every Sunday. It’s my weekly “mental emptying.” Interestingly enough, since I’ve been running for the past 6 or 7 years, I’ve written articles, speeches, even parts of books while jogging at the park! It’s almost like taking a mind expanding drug every week to boost my creativity – except it’s legal, free and safe.
Think of it this way: how in the world did Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison come up with those incredible, timeless songs? They all took drugs. (Okay, they were also incredibly gifted musicians too, but you’ve got to admit: the drugs helped.) Now, we all know what happened to those three guys at the ripe age of 27. So this doesn’t mean anyone should partake in such illegal activities. But remember: exercise is like a legal, healthy drug; and if you use it at the right time, you can come up with some incredibly creative stuff.
MELON MOTIVATOR #1: Take an hour to go for a walk, ride a bike or hike a trail.
Change Your Workspace
Isn’t it ironic that “thinking outside the box” is such an unoriginal and overused cliché that it’s actually become an “inside the box” type of phrase?
That being said; forget about getting “outside the box,” and get the heck out of the office! Wherever you live, there are bound to be dozens of workspaces you never would have thought to utilize. Coffee shops, all night diners, copy stores, 24 hour libraries, hotel lobbies, hospital cafeterias, even grocery stores are perfect to claim as your new “spot.” Just be sure to find somewhere that’s relatively quiet and appeals to the five senses in a manner that differs from your typical workspace.
In a recent article from Innovation Network, Jonathan Vehar revealed two examples of famous thinkers’ workspace techniques. “Einstein came up with his greatest theories while sailing. And Edison, a man with over 1,000 patents to his credit, would go down to the dock and fish.” As for me, I like the produce section. What about you?
MELON MOTIVATOR #3: The world is your office.
(To see more creativity techniques that will motivate your melon, read the entire article here.)
As you experiment with these four displacement techniques, remember that creativity isn’t a once a week or even a once a day thing. It’s perpetual. And it’s up to you to be on the lookout for materials you can use to build your ideas and get over that mental wall.
And while you’re at it, also remember that creativity is largely about breaking the rules. So don’t feel restricted in any way. After all, I’m writing this blog post at 11 PM on a Tuesday night sitting in the produce section of my local grocery store.
LET ME ASK YA THIS...
How do you motivate your melon?
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Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag
Thursday, June 30, 2005