How Doing Nothing Makes You More Creative...


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In ‘Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention" Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about the period of incubation being perhaps the most important and essential aspect of creative process. Out of the stillness of this ‘mysterious time’ flow the connections and relationships which when fused, will lead suddenly to the eureka moment, clarity as if out of nothing, when least expected. Effectively this means that what we perceive as being the work of creativity, the brainstorming, research and experimentation which occur as we explore or invent the problem in hand is merely the start of the process at a conscious level, whilst the real magic happens as the problem goes underground, into our subconscious and becomes creative alchemy.

So how does this work in reality? Incubation means different things to different people. It may be doing nothing, or it may be doing something completely different and unrelated to the problem at hand. It can take seconds, minutes, hours, days or weeks, be a five-minute break for coffee or a trip to the Ecuadorian rainforests. The only thing we can do is raise our awareness of our natural working rhythms and learn to create space when we come to a natural break in the process. If we trust that the creative process can never be entirely controlled or contained by deliberate focus we open up new worlds and possibilities of discovery where we allow our conscious and unconscious minds to collaborate.

To do this on a day-to-day level you might:

Do something differently: walk or drive a different route to work or the gym.

Take a shower.

Take your coffee outside (ideally not in a rainstorm).

Read a completely unrelated book.

Take a nap (seriously, it can work).

The most important thing is to take a break and do something else, for as long as it takes…

Claudie Plen is a Creative Life and Business Coach specialising in helping creative people and businesses achieve peak performance, motivation and enhanced employee engagement. Find your inspiration at and find out how coaching could work for you or your business.


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