The Elusive Creative Spark: Harnessing Inspiration & Activating BJO
Contributed by Taylor Burkhalter
CREATIVITY, at least for me, comes and goes. I can’t always be creative when I need to be. But, over the years, I’ve developed practices that help me tap into the creative realm of my brain allowing me to experience “Brain-Juice Overflow” – This is a scientific term (it’s not) coined by scientists (by me). From my experience, there are 3 main categories you need to consider to achieve BJO: Environment, Sleep / Diet, and Warm-Up. Before we explore these 3 groups, you must first ask yourself the following question (and then answer it): What kind of creative work am I doing?
After you have determined the nature of your creative work, it’s time to consider your environment. Your environment plays a crucial part in your ability to produce quality work. For instance, when I first attempted to write this article, a bustling coffee shop was my environment of choice. Bad idea. I looked at a plant for 7 minutes and had to leave – My brain did not respond well to this environment (for this specific kind of task). When my task requires the ability to focus for extended periods of time, I have to find an environment conducive to intense concentration, like a library (or a cabin in the woods). If you have a cabin in the woods, let me know. I am interested in renting it for my next article.
Not all creative activities require this, however. For example, when I was making comedic Vine videos regularly, and I needed to develop a script or a new character, I preferred a busy environment filled with distractions. Distraction was a catalyst for developing new ideas. My favorite place to find inspiration for Vine was…(Nick Cannon – DRUMROLL!)
…. WALMART SUPERCENTER. Yes, Walmart – The mecca for Taylor’s creative inspiration. Idea shopping. With such a large, diverse group of people, there really is no better place to find inspiration for character-driven content. But, I could never write an article at Walmart. Find the environment that suits you best and don’t compromise! I compromised by going to the coffee shop thinking caffeine would be enough to help me knock out my task. I ended up in a hypnotic trance with a succulent.
Pick Your Poison: Brain Gravy or Delirium
Sleep and Diet are crucial to the creative process. The amount of sleep I get the night before directly correlates to my ability to concentrate. If I have to write an article or develop/edit copy for a client’s marketing materials, I need to be able to concentrate intensely for extended periods of time. I also need a substantial breakfast and some coffee (aka brain gravy) in me before I attempt to focus.
The exact opposite is true for me if I need to develop comedic material for a video. I’ll continue with the Vine example – I seemed to find an influx of ideas the less I slept the night before. Sleep deprivation was a key ingredient in my creative process for Vine – I knew if I could make it past midnight, somewhere out there was a random surge of creative energy – once I found it, it was like a whole new world of ideas would unlock. This is what experts (I) refer to as Maximum Brain-Juice Overflow – it’s rare and difficult to attain.
Grab An Umbrella – There’s 100% Chance of Brainstorms
Terrible paragraph titles aside, it is important to have a warm-up strategy in place before diving into a creative task. For a lot of us, quick brainstorming sessions go a long way in helping our brains get on track for the task ahead – outlining our thoughts and organizing them so we can easily execute once we are ready to begin. For some, a literal warm-up is needed. We play a lot of foosball at our office – this is a great warm up for me because it gets my blood flowing and helps to clear my head. After dominating the opposing team, I am well suited to tackle a new creative task.
I had an interesting warm up exercise I used for Vine – I would do this thing where I spouted off the first words that came to my head continuously for 30 seconds. The results were amazing. And by amazing I mean bizarre and usually somewhat frightening. This exercise challenged my brain to be quick (and also very random). Then, from the words I was able to come up with, I would expand on those words and use them as building blocks for a story. It was a fun brainstorming process that helped me find the creative inspiration I needed to make a successful vine video.
Do a little research. See which tactics support your creative process the most. Then, continue to implement those habits and watch your creativity EXPLODE as you enter the world of Brain-Juice Overflow.