Writing has been hard lately so as I sit and stare at both the screen and the keyboard I can’t help but wonder where do ideas come from, what makes them and where can I get them?
There seems to be a misconception that there are creative and non-creative people in the world. The one group have this unexplained power to see the world from a slightly different angle and create things that weren’t there before, the others only standing by in awe. But that is not true, everyone can be creative – if they let themselves.
Although scientists have been trying to figure out how ideas are made inside our brain they haven’t really been able to figure out too much. They know that dopamine is a main contributor to the process and that certain areas of the brain tend to be more active than others, but they also know that being intelligent and being creative are not necessarily linked, so no excuses if you were bad in school.
The chemical dopamine is vital for people to actually get up and do things. Without this neurotransmitter we would all feel hungry, but not do anything about it and possibly starve to death. But dopamine has been proven to also play a vital role when it comes to learning and remembering things, moving our body and naughty thoughts. This is possibly the reason why opiates (high levels of dopamine) are so highly addictive, not only do they make us feel fantastic but we seem to be able to do things better, faster and have wonderfully creative ideas.
A healthier way to help the flow of dopamine in your brain is listening to music. Not only does our favourite song make us emotional, kick start our memories or inspire us to jump around the living room as if we were a possessed prima ballerina but it also increases the levels of dopamine produced, encouraging our bodies and minds to do and feel things.
Of course there are foods that can help us along too. Sunflower seeds, whole grain and foods high in antioxidants like berries, tomatoes, broccoli and garlic (maybe not all at the same time) are perfect but ripe bananas seem to be the best. And while caffeine can give you a quick push, it doesn’t last long. And again (and I hate having to type this as lazy as I am) exercise seems to help too.
When all of that fails, and you still have no ideas, there is the simple trick of bringing your seven-year-old-self out to play. All children are incredibly creative and like anything else creativity needs practice. What we did so instinctively as kids we forget as adults. We stop picking up sticks and turning them into wands and swords, we don’t linger and watch as a spider spins her web or stand in awe as a butterfly opens up her wings and flies away. As adults a box is a box, not a time-machine or a typewriter or a hat, for a child a box is something of endless possibilities. And don’t be afraid to try something and fail, if it doesn’t work try again, maybe a little different and who knows what you will discover. After all children constantly fail at things but they change the rules and discover new possibilities, never lost for ideas and full of surprises.
So now I have to put on a CD, eat a banana, do a few jumping jacks and turn my cereal box into shoes so that I can come up with ideas of how to fill my writing quota for the day.
As a writer of mystery books, I have two worlds here – ideas and the energy to do something once I’ve got the idea. For me, murder and mayhem stories in the daily papers – I read the Boston Globe, Miami Herald & the Irish Times, online daily. Unfortunately, they are filled with deeds to fill a mystery writer with ‘what if’ ideas.
Exercise first thing in the morning (at least weekdays) and I make my own juice by mixing as many berries with apples & bananas and then a 100% juice drink to dilute.the mix in the mixer! Espresso can add that little boost later in the day. But my favorite thing to do to revitalize my thoughts is take a half-hour nap! Naps don’t get enough credit!
Great column and thanks for sharing. It’s always good to know our problems are shared with others.
I can’t really nap … And I really need to do more exercise than just cycle … But juice sounds good!