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If you want to be creative, stop thinking

No, really. There’s a reason why people say their best ideas come to them in the shower, while running or in the middle of the night. And it’s the reason why creative types are always seen carrying a notebook, ready to scribble down any brilliance that pops into their heads no matter where they are.

Photo: The GuardianWhen you’re not thinking directly about the challenge at hand, your subconscious mind is left to wander and be creative. Legendary writer and actor John Cleese has a lot to say about what he calls “the unconscious [sic] mind’s” role in creativity, including:

  • “A lot of my best work seemed to come as a result of my unconscious working on things when I wasn’t really attending to them.”
  • “When you defer decisions as long as possible, it’s giving your unconscious the maximum amount of time to come up with something.”
  • “When you start on something that’s fundamentally creative, don’t bring the old critical mind in too quickly.”

So the next time a creative challenge comes your way, try to leave a little breathing room. Work on it, but then put it away. Give your subconscious some time to work on it, too. But be sure to keep a notebook close by. You never know when brilliance will strike. 

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