Conditions for Creativity

I’m fascinated by the idea that leisure is creativity’s best friend.

In our productivity-focused world, we tend to believe that great work comes through perseverance and sheer effort. This is certainly true in a lot of cases, but creative work is different.

Creativity is a mode that we can access within ourselves, and it takes effort to create the right environment and mindset to facilitate its appearance. If we are intentional about it, we can actually redesign our lives to optimize for creativity.

Deliberate rest is crucial to unlocking creativity. To do better work, we must do less work. This is harder than it sounds. We have so many psychological threads tied up into our work — it’s difficult to let go.

I think what really scares us though, is what is left when we remove (even some of) the work that kept us so busy. The mere idea of doing nothing, even for a moment, is terrifying for most people. This is also why many are afraid to meditate.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” —Pascal

We love to plan everything out, account for every moment in our calendars, and resist uncertainty as much as possible. Yet, true innovation is often unplanned, and we can only access true creativity if we make space for serendipity. Again, our natural tendencies resist this. Busyness is the master all serve, without knowing it. We must wake up to the reality of our situation.

Then, finally, perhaps we can take a nap.

All that said, looking at rest as simply an enabler of more work is problematic. We all know the saying: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Yet, precious few actually embrace play in their lives. Without it, we’ll be stuck in an endless loop of work and rest. As it turns out, embracing play is both fun and a source of creativity (). Shouldn’t adults have fun too?

Another factor to consider is that the right tools can enable a new dimension of creativity that wasn’t previously possible. As Pasquale D’Silva puts it:

The most paradigm bending, groundbreaking creativity happens when technology serves artists.

Tools can either hinder or enhance our ability to create. At the same time, creative constraints can actually lead to more exploration and freedom. The design of creative tools has to balance these concerns to fully unlock our creative potential.