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My best ideas seem to come to me when I’m away from my computer, sketchpad, or whiteboard and it is probably the same for you.

I tend to have moments of inspiration while I’m laying in bed at night, pitch black, trying to turn off my brain…a battle I seem to lose on the daily. As soon as I make the decision to shut down for the night, my brain seems to make the decision to feed me a bunch of new ideas. My thoughts race. Sometimes I grab my phone, “Hey Siri remind me of XYZ idea tomorrow at 9AM.”

Other moments when my brain seems to feed me fresh ideas include while I’m driving, at the gym, airplanes, laying out in the sunshine by a pool or at the beach, and the ever stereotypical “in the shower.”

The Right Brain vs. Left Brain Myth

There is an age old myth that “creatives are right brained” and analytical people are “left brained.”

“It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain. Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network. It seems to be determined more connection by connection.” Dr. Jeff Anderson, Two Year Study at University of Utah (Nielsen, Zielinksi, Ferguson, Lainhart, Anderson)

Where Ideas Really Come From

Michael Carroll of the NLP Academy explains a bit more about the “connection by connection” mentioned by Dr. Anderson

“The conscious mind has limited processing capabilities, compared to the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is dominated by the logic of natural language partitions represented in the narrative of a linguistic description. Your conscious mind is the part of your mind that you are using to read and process these words.” Michael Carroll, NLP Academy

Enlist Your Unconscious Brain to Creative Work

Nancy C. Andreasen breaks down how to turn this unconscious mind into a creative idea generating machine…

“The creative process moves through stages. It begins with preparation, a time when the basic information or skills are assembled. It continues on to incubation, a relaxed time during which the person does not work consciously to solve the problem, but when connections are unconsciously being made. This then leads eventually to inspiration, the eureka experience when the person suddenly sees the solution. It ends with production, a time when the insights are put into a useful form.” – Nancy C. Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Preparation: Research, ponder, brainstorm, attempting to generate ideas using the conscious mind.
  • Incubation: Step away. Take a break. Do something else. Let your unconscious mind work.
  • Inspiration: Wait for the idea to come, in the shower, at the gym, while driving, often when you least expect it.
  • Production: Take your idea and convert it into a tangible plan for production.

Creative ideas come from preparing our mind with research and effort, then stepping away to let our unconscious mind take over and once the idea hits, then you are ready to produce “the thing.”

Are Smokers More Creative Than Non-Smokers?

Now that we are all on the same page about how the brain and creativity works, you are prepped to watch my latest YouTube video where I was asked by my friend Sorav Jain, “Are people who smoke more creative?”

Hope you have a great week ahead, filled with down time and tons of creative ideas!

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.