Note From Rochelle
Happy writing, Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
By Rochelle Melander
Clear thinking at the wrong moment can stifle creativity. —Karl Lagerfeld
I tend to write early in the morning, at a (relatively) clean, with all the lights on. I’ve attributed my ability to write books fast to this daily discipline. But recent research suggests that I may be stifling my creativity.
What? Say it ain’t so!
Whether you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, writing your first nonfiction book, or developing a new marketing campaign, these simple tools can help you increase your creativity.
1. Embrace the mess. Don’t sweat those stacks of paper and books in your office—they may actually help you be more inventive. In a study led by Kathleen D. Vohs of the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, researchers put participants in either a messy or a neat office space and asked them to imagine novel uses for Ping-Pong balls. Both groups of subjects came up with about the same number of answers, but the participants who worked in the messy room developed “almost five times the number of highly-creative responses” as the others.
2. Dim the lights. The days are shorter and, at least here in Wisconsin, the sun seems to have taken a vacation—so I’m delighted to hear about the link between dim light and innovation. In this study, participants who worked in dim lighting were better able to generate innovative ideas. German researchers Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth explained that dim light, “elicits a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition.” (Pro Tip: If you plan on dimming the lights, be sure to stay upright. The last time I tried this tool, I made the mistake of lying on the couch with the dogs, under a cozy fleece blanket. I ended up sleeping through my own brainstorming session!)
3. Work tired. Feeling fatigued? It’s the perfect time to dream up new plot ideas! When we’re tired, we’re more open to innovative ideas. According to a 2011 study led by Mareike Wieth at Albion College in Michigan, students performed better on problems that required novel thinking when they were tired (Thinking & Reasoning, 2011).
After reading these tips, you may be ready to fire the cleaning staff, toss those light bulbs, and change your working hours. Don’t. Although our creativity spikes when we we’re tired and working in dimly lit, messy offices—we need to be alert to think analytically. So go ahead and brainstorm in a dimly lit mess. Then when it comes time to analyze your ideas, structure your book or revise your manuscript, work at your most energetic time of day in a brightly lit, neat office!
[Tweet “#NaNo What sparks your creativity?”]