How to boost your creativity and inspiration by sweeping the floor, doing the dishes and going for a walk.

boost your creativity

Lost your creativity? Check under the coffee table.

It had been a huge week: long 12-14 hour shoot days backed up by long hours of editing. I was wiped. My brain felt fried, my body ached and all I wanted to do was curl up in bed with a fresh jar of Nutella and binge watch America’s Next Top Model. Unfortunately my date with sugar, fat, and Tyra was going to have to wait. I had a creative pitch to prepare for a client that I’d promised to deliver by first thing Monday morning.

I poured myself a coffee, fired up my computer and stared at a blank screen for the next 15 minutes… poured myself another coffee, checked Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Gmail… and then went back to staring at the screen again. I was waiting for something to happen. I was waiting for inspiration and creativity to turn up. But they never did. I waited patiently for the first two hours. I kept checking email and social media, just in case I’d find them there. I looked behind the couch and under the bed. They weren’t there either.

Had I been stood up? Or had creativity and inspiration broken up with me and not told me like my boyfriend Robert did when I was 15 years old?

I’d been staring at the screen for two hours and still nothing. I decided to check the fridge and see if creativity and inspiration were hiding in there.

This was the first time I’d been home in daylight for the last 10 days. The house looked like it had been ransacked. The dog had made friends with the dust bunnies and I was drinking coffee out of a plastic Mickey Mouse cup because it was the only clean cup I could find.

I promised myself I’d clean the house after I’d finished the pitch, but before I knew it I was washing dishes, hanging out washing, and vacuuming floors. The cleaner the house got, the better I started to feel. I stopped stressing about the pitch and became totally immersed in the mind numbing activities of cleaning. As I reached to vacuum under the coffee table, I found inspiration. Then creativity turned up when I was cleaning the shower screen. By the time the house was clean two hours later, I had my entire pitch formulated in my head. I created my pitch in no time at all and still managed to watch a few episodes of Next Top Model!

Did a miracle just happen?

Does my vacuum have magic powers like Harry Potter’s wand? Sadly, no. Finding creativity and inspiration has nothing to do with cleaning. Any activity that is repetitive and meditative will have the same result. Have you ever noticed you get your best ideas in the shower, while you’re driving, walking, or even pulling weeds? There is a scientific reason behind this but rather than give you the science gobbledygoop, I’ll give the the condensed Gina version instead.

So basically there are two parts of the brain: Executive and Genius. The Executive part of the brain gets stuff done while the Genius comes up with ideas.

Think of the executive part as the self-centred friend you have that totally dominates every conversation and will always bring every topic back to being about them. Executive is also the friend you go to whenever you need to get practical help like finding your way to work each day. Shopping for food and knowing which fork to use at a fancy restaurant.

Genius is your dreamer friend who always wants to jump on the next flight to Paris, ride around in sports cars with the top down, notices sunsets, and says beautiful, inspiring and poetic things when you least expect it.

Executive is loud and constantly booming out instructions. Genius whispers quietly.

So if you wake up tomorrow morning and decide you want to fly to Paris, it’s Genius that comes up with the idea to fly to Paris and Executive that buys the ticket, organises luggage, gets you to the airport, onto the plane on time, makes sure you know how to cross the road, and ride the metro. Genius helps you notice the light, and the reflections of the rain on the road.

Executive is the part of your brain you are always hearing. It’s speaking to you constantly and loudly. “Turn right. Eat this. Say that. Don’t do this.”

Genius is constantly speaking to you as well. But it’s such a quiet whisper that you rarely hear it. But if you can distract Executive for long enough, you will have the opportunity to hear what Genius is saying. The best ways to distract Executive is to give it something repetitive and menial to do like walking, showering, cleaning, or doing the dishes.

So next time you’re looking for inspiration go for a walk, take a shower or clean the house and give your Genius a chance to get a word in.

What were you doing when you got your best ideas? I’d love to hear about them.

0 Response
  1. When we go on to a tour in another cnoutry, another culture setting, we tend to stand with our own value and culture system, and to process and make comparison to those of the local subject with our own. It is only different, when you are soaked’ in the foreign, alien environment, that you feel like an outsider, an minority, one that needs adjustment to blend in’ to the local surroundings, that we can understand and also experience how living abroad can change us internally.We as socialized animals, still kept many of our animalistic habits and way of thinking, it not only reflect on our own action, but also in greater scale, the whole community and society can be acting and in reflection to our instinctive characteristics.Firstly, we are born feeling insecure, and that’s why the very first thing we do in our life is to cry, so that we can draw attention of our mothers in order to secure the very basic of our safety. In my opinion, that very instinctive personality, is directly responsible for so many of our actions as groups or communities. From our animalistic period, we learned that close community is crucial, direct bloodline is crucial, for the safety of the tribe or the clan; From that, we realized at least unconsciously, that whoever(whatever) that doesn’t look or act similar to ourselves, should be considered potentially hostile and might needs to be eliminated in order to secure our own safety. And that is the very origin of Racism.With that in mind, of course when we enter an alien culture setting, without majority of the people around us acting and thinking (or even looking) differently from ourselves, the very urgent thing to do (according to our inner instinctive voice) is to get the hell out! . And that is one of the realizations I made myself, when I realized that every time I am going on to an international trip, very oftenly one day prior to the trip, I might have a running stomach (my body trying to get me to quit the trip). Then after realizing that leaving is no longer an option(to me, this is also one of the reasons why we will have the nostalgic’ feelings), the second instinctive thing we do, is to act like the locals, in case retaliation or hostile actions are taken against us; That is why we learn to speak the language, trying to blend in by adapting the local customs from table manner, to clothing, and even to, having a local mate.These instinctive actions, inevitably turn us into adaptive politicians(or diplomats to be more accurate); And as we all know, those people who has more Social Capitals, tend to succeed in society. We became, in a way, actors.But of course while sounding really prudish, it does make significant modification unconsciously to our minds, and these modifications might not be such evil and against-morality-fakeness, but those necessary characteristics needed in order for someone to achieve positive outcomes in society in general.Those who’s been embedded in a foreign culture, tends to be more tolerant towards different ideas and beliefs; They are relatively more adaptive towards different environments and settings; They are familiar the good and bad of not one, but more than one culture, and as we know it(again), good characteristics tend to defy and canceling the bad ones. As an result of the explained and unexplained reasons, those who has spend longer period of time in a foreign cultural setting, tend to do better with their creative or cognitive capacity.Personally I have spent two years in England, and now more than one year in America, and both places and cultures had definitely changed me, a lot; So much that I’ve started to experience reversed culture shocks.Basically, the above paragraphs are solidified partially by my very own experiences with spending time in different cultures. And I’ll have to say that, it does change people, well sometimes in a bad way if they are unable to be adjusting to the environment and thus unfit in that particular surrounding; But generally I do believe that life abroad definitely has a positive correlation to one’s cognitive capacity.

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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE