by Max Meres
One dark and desolate January afternoon, circa 1990, one Joanne Rowling battles her way through the bitter Scottish cold, clasping at the chipped door handle of a certain Edinburgh coffee shop before retreating inside to shelter from the city’s abrasive winds. She shuffles to the counter and orders a drink — hot chocolate, marshmallows and no cream, to be precise.
Seated, she nestles her mitten-clad hands around the mug. A handful of torn sheets of paper later — throw in eight more hot chocs, for accuracy’s sake — and Rowling had devised the world’s favourite bespectacled boy wizard, and what would eventually turn into a multibillion dollar film franchise.
Creativity’s easy — just find yourself a quaint eatery in Auld Reekie and watch your inner genius unfold. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone works in different ways, and as much as it pains me to say it, there’s no set formula to unleashing artistry. There are a few hacks which can make it a tad easier, though. Try these out next time you’re in need of a fix of inspiration.
Break up hours bashing away at a keyboard with HIIT sessions, or give it your all against a punchbag when the working day comes to an end.
Take the stairs
No one wants to enter the office panting, fighting the urge to regurgitate their porridge at 9am on a Monday. Or a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, too, for that matter. The health benefits of taking the stairs are twofold, but that 30 second addon climb to your daily commute also helps the mind.
The physical exertion releases endorphins, gets the blood flowing and ultimately gives you time to think. Studies have shown taking the stairs to give more of an energy boost than a shot of caffeine (the modern-day creative’s ever-faithful vice). Ditch the lift — it’ll be there come 5pm — and blow off the morning cobwebs before you reach your desk.
Do something totally different
Maximise your potential by taking up a hobby which has next to no creative value.
Hammering out ingenuity for seven-odd hours is HARD. In fact, it’s verging on impossible — but that’s not to say it can’t be achieved. Maximise your potential by taking up a hobby which has next to no creative value, or just something which is entirely different from your day job. Break up hours bashing away at a keyboard with HIIT sessions, or give it your all against a punchbag when the working day comes to an end.
Physical exercise — although it does have creative elements — uses different parts of your brain which desk jockeying doesn’t touch. Deadline day approaching? Don’t sweat it — or sweat it out on a treadmill a few days before and see what brilliance comes your way.
Be antisocial to social media
#Influencer posts on Instagram can be an inspiration in themselves, particularly when of the travel variety. Acute closeups of your second cousin’s aging poodle? Not so much, especially when compared to a snap of Machu Picchu with #NoFilter. While social media definitely has its creative uses — when ideating your next blog title, for instance — once you’re all set on an idea, it can be best to block it out altogether.
Grab a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and get away from it all.
Disconnect from the digital stratosphere. Put your phone where you CAN’T see it and log out of any distracting apps or websites elsewhere. Work in intense, short bursts and see what you can jot down. Hey, maybe there’s a reason that all writing’s greats — think Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S Thomson and George Orwell — came from a pre-social media era…
Hydrate to elevate
It sounds obvious, but drinking plenty of water can do wonders for your ability to think. It allows our brains to think clearly, free from dehydration, making for better circulation and a generally better functioning body.
As a general rule, the NHS recommends drinking between six and eight glasses per day. If it makes it easier, fill up a large bottle and monitor your intake that way. Throw some chopped-up fruit in for good measure and extra nutritional goodness. It makes for a better desk companion than a crushed up can of coke, and comes without all the associated sugary ails, too.
Plug in and tune out
You might work in noisy office, or maybe the tranquil of your home workspace has been decimated by calamitous roadworks on your street. In either case, your best bet is to grab a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and get away from it all.
Go for music without lyrics. I work best to minimalist composers like Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Phillip Glass. Or, if it’s late afternoon and you need a bit of a kick, listen something more upbeat like techno or minimal house — whatever floats your boat. Just try to make sure you don’t enjoy the music more than the work itself.
Sometimes, though, all you need is a strong cup of tea or coffee — maybe that quaint café in the Scottish capital wasn’t such a bad idea, after all. Get your workspace sorted, then deploy these techniques in your everyday life and get ready to revel in the results.
I write full time for Caliber, a creative agency specialising in smart organic marketing. Find out more about how we help our clients with innovative, savvy solutions.