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Tools for a more creative 2023

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Art by Gemma Correll

Happy New Year

Greetings from a small island on the Pacific Ocean:)

I've been battling with insomnia lately. Even when I'm not traveling, I'm pretty terrible at maintaining a good sleep routine — going to bed at different hours every day, staying awake for too long, hitting the snooze button. Under the sheets, I'm always reminded of unfinished tasks, and I end up feeling like I'm not doing enough.

Thoughts that go through my head: should I cancel my Napkin subscription, since I'm not really using it enough? Should I pay more attention to new NFT minting? I heard people made 10x from the Trump collection. My lower back hurts, is it because of posture or a potential spinal disorder?

But it's also times like this when good ideas would pop into my head. I know I'm not alone in this. Dr. Karen Shue, a neuropsychologist that works with people with brain injuries, explained stream of thoughts could be a driver for our creativity.

The brain is a collection of connections, a network of networks — that it is always in motion, always creating, re-creating, and adjusting itself.

Contentment and resolution are pleasant, but not a driver for creative stretches.

How do you go from being stuck in a thought loop to creative ideas? Here are some suggestions I've found.

1. Introduce something new

Exit the thought loop by disrupting the network activity: new information, someone else's perspectives, etc.

In Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi recommends

Try to be surprised by something every day. It could be something you see, hear, or read about. Stop to look at the unusual car parked at the curb, taste the new item on the cafeteria menu, actually listen to your colleague at the office.

As a writer/artist/creator, you are always looking for inspiration.

Remain curious about the world, actively notice, and pay attention to what's going on.

Committing to having a point of view and noticing something interesting every day is certainly going to make you more creative.

2. Take on multiple hobbies

Legendary innovators like Leonardo Davinci, Charles Darwin, and Steve Jobs all possessed intellectual rigor and unbounded curiosities—but they also share another defining characteristic: They have a lot of hobbies.

Why is this helpful for creativity? In Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation, the trick to having good ideas is to create a lot of cognitive overlap.

That cognitive overlap is what makes this mode so innovative. The current project can exapt ideas from the projects at the margins, make new connections.

The only way to remain creative over time is to experiment with ignorance, to stare at things we don't fully understand.

In 2023, I am going to continuously practice piano, study French & Korean, and explore more physical activities. Right now I enjoy going to the gym, but I'd like to introduce more variety and go outdoors a bit more. (Sometimes I'm guilty of taking on too much at the same time, but hey, it's good for creativity right?)

3. Relax more often

Why do so many insights happen during warm showers?

Researchers found lower levels of cortisol are helpful to creative problem-solving [study].

An increase in creative thinking when they enhance subjects' brain alpha power using current stimulation [study].

You may not have current stimulation devices at home, but you can practice meditation or watch a humorous video. These brief moments of relaxation and delight may lead you to more epiphanies.

When we’re struggling with seemingly impossible problems, it’s important to find time to unwind, to eavesdrop on all those remote associations coming from the right hemisphere. Instead of drinking another cup of coffee, indulge in a little daydreaming. Rather than relentlessly focusing, take a warm shower, or play some Ping-Pong, or walk on the beach.

—Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works

Thank you for reading this post! I hope 2023 is the year you become your most creative, authentic self. Don't settle for less than what you're capable of.

Much love,


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