This trick--which I've practiced for decades--is so simple that I'm flabbergasted I've never blogged about it before.
First, some background. When I started out as a professional writer, I suffered from the bane writer's block. Then I read the truly excellent book Writing on Both Sides of the Brain.
In that book, author Henriette Klauser recommends that, to overcome writer's block, you do your creative writing when you're tired and sleepy, rather than when you're alert and wide awake.
Her theory is that when you're sleepy your conscious mind and your subconscious mind begin to blur, thereby allowing your conscious mind to draw upon the creativity in your subconscious mind, the part of your brain from where your dreams emerge.
I was skeptical, but when I actually tried the technique, my writer's block completely disappeared. Even today, I do some of my best writing right before I'm about to fall asleep. So far, so good.
Here's the exciting part. Earlier this week I discovered that there's real science behind this method of tapping your creativity.
According to an article in The Atlantic, a professor of psychology at Albion University in the UK set 428 students to solving both analytical problems (like those on an SAT test) and insight-based problems like:
"A dealer in antique coins got an offer to buy a beautiful bronze coin. The coin had an emperor's head on one side and the date 544 B.C. stamped on the other. The dealer examined the coin, but instead of buying it, he called the police. Why?"
These questions were asked at different times of the day in order to determine whether people's biological clocks had an effect on problem-solving. The study found that people solve analytical problems with the same speed and accuracy regardless of whether they're alert or sleepy.
However, the study also showed that most people experience a marked improvement in the ability to solve the insight-based problems when they're fatigued. In other words, Klauser was right: being a little sleepy does make you more creative.
This fact explains why the best ideas in brainstorming sessions usually come at the end of the session, when everyone is feeling tired and a bit burned out.
It also explains why people sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem that's been vexing them the previous day. (I don't know if this ever happens to you, but it's certainly happened to me, many times.)
With all that in mind, here's the world's easiest hack to make yourself more creative: rather than tackle your creative work when you start your day, delay it until the end of the day, when you're a little tired out.
Simple yet effective. Can't beat that.