Creative Daydreaming

The Creative Mind

Creative people strike a balance between in-the-moment focus and mind-wandering daydreaming. Scott Barry Kaufman writes in Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind:

“Creativity requires a balance of external focus with more inner-focused, free imagination network processes like future thinking, reflection, introspection, and memory consolidation. Although focussed attention can be a gateway to creative thinking, optimal creativity likely results from both mindful and mind-wandering states of mind and, importantly, in the ability to switch easily from one mode of engagement to the other as needed.”

If we put pressure on ourselves to be productive and in-the-moment at all times, we diminish our creative capacity. What may look like procrastination or daydreaming to those around us, is actually a vital part of the creative process. Ideas need to incubate (I call it percolating!) before we approach the canvas or blank page or digital medium.

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

In addition, if we spend too much time getting ourselves organized and making sure we get everything done in a timely manner, we are less creative and innovative. Checking off boxes may make us excellent rule-following employees, but it stifles the ability to truly innovate and create.

Innovators in Action

The video at the end of this post features organizational psychologist Adam Grant talking about the habits of people who come up with original ideas. He uses his own experience in not investing in Warby Parker when he had the chance as a jumping off point to talk about how original ideas often come from procrastination, doubt, and the ability to tolerate failure.

Educate to Foster Creativity

As an educator, I find this concept fits fully with Bloom’s Taxonomy: as we move from the lowest levels of learning to the highest levels -- from remembering to evaluating to creating -- our brains require downtime to process information and make new connections. It’s one reason I object to the over-reliance on standardized testing. It’s easy to remember a bunch of stuff to regurgitate on a test. It’s harder to critique the information and create new ideas from it. Creativity in every field, from art to urban planning, requires the ability to operate at the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. If we want to reach the top of that pyramid, we need to give ourselves time for daydreaming and future-thinking.

What about you?

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The surprising habits of original thinkers | Adam Grant