To me creativity means a new and relevant connection between problem and solution. ‘New’ as in – the connection has not been made before, within the context of the problem. But just because it is new doesn’t mean its creative per definition. It also has to be relevant to the situation, otherwise it is just ‘randomness’.
But today none other than John Cleese challenged me to look at creativity as a state of mind. A mood even, who – much like ‘the prepared mind’ – requires certain conditions to occur.
Cleese convincingly argues that the uninterrupted mind (focus) is the most important condition of creativity. Why? Focus on a task makes sure any thoughts are processed within the context of your task, creating better conditions for creativity to occur. But either way it inspired me to do the following things:
- Close outlook, and not open it for at least 1 hour after checking my mail – This is an obvious tip from many productivity blogs, but knowing it could limit my creativity as well I gave it a try.
- Put my phone out of hands reach – I love my iPhone, but it’s packed with distractions. I don’t want it near me when requiring this creative mindset.
- Bought a headphone – though terribly anti-social, sometimes you need to get this focus and shut the outside world out. I also made some playlists with songs without lyrics – I recommend Mike Oldfield
- Uninstal Twhirl – Twhirl is a great twitter service that sends me updates every 60 seconds. Though showing me only replies (‘tweets’ send only to me) I am just too curious of a person to not check the random chatter whenever I see the icon blink.
- Stopped using youTube as my music player – I often use youTube as my music player. It’s free, fun to browse, relevant suggestions – but it keeps interrupting me every 4 minutes or so when I didn’t make a playlist. Devastating to creativity according to Cleese.
- Closing my browser when I got what I needed of the web - This one seems obvious as well but almost everyone at the office has a browser running 24/7. By having to re launch the browser I have to think if my visit to the www is actually worth interrupting my work, which seems to have cut my visits to the web down by 80% so far.
The results are I update twitter less and answer email less immediate, but the rewards are I do feel I am able to focus more and the creative work does feel easier after an hour of focus. If this was a mathematical problem and these interruptions ‘reset’ the time to gain focus, going for an hour without interruptions should make be 6 times as focused (and according to Cleese, creative) after the first hour when compared to being interrupted every 10 minutes.
Though it doesn’t feel quite like 6 times as creative, it does have another pleasant side-effect. I notice I can now use services such as twitter more pleasantly when placed in a reserved, specific timeframe, instead of feeling pressured into it by my own curiosity and hampering my own productivity and creativity.