From writers to bakers, painters to musicians, all artists have faced the struggles of chasing inspiration. Even those amongst us who would not naturally refer to themselves as creatives aren’t exempt from the elusivity of that “lightbulb moment”, which makes all the difference between ordinary ideas and genius.
My Own Stationery sought to find out just where these lightning strikes were falling most often, or rather, in which sorts of situations people were most likely to get them. Surveying over 100 creative professionals across the UK, they deduced that people feel most creative when they are outside, relaxing, alone.
Interestingly, these findings reveal glaring faults with the popular group brainstorming methods implied in schools and workplaces everywhere. Rather than conversation and cooperation, it would seem most people have their finest brain waves while alone in independent thoughts.
Over half of respondents felt more creative while in the great outdoors, rather than indoors.
Set designer, Anne Atkins, who worked on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, commented, “I find nothing less inspiring than looking at a blank artboard on my computer screen. I really need to get out and about — start rooting through flea markets for treasure.”
Moreover, only 28% of people felt most creative when speaking aloud, whether alone or with others, again highlighting how the standard style of brainstorming may not be the best way to trigger inspiration.
It was also found that 59% of respondents felt more creative while relaxing, bolstering the idea that we need time to relax and rejuvenate in order to do our best work. Moreover, this reveals just how important time away from the workplace is for those in creative industries or whose work depends on innovative, creative thinking.
Writer Grace Latter, behind the blog Almost Amazing Grace, said, “I personally feel properly inspired and creative when I take a break from everything and leave my laptop alone for a few hours at least...By the time I get home that night or the next day, I am full of ideas and desperate to get typing or scribbling!”
Best of Belfast blogger Matthew Thompson felt similarly. “For me,” he said, “the secret sauce is to do a little bit every single day and not drain yourself. Hemingway said something like “leave enough in the well for the next day” and I think that's the mistake too many people make.”
Of course, it is impossible to truly say when and where inspiration will next take you. Just as scientists can only make the best assumptions as to where lightning will strike, so this survey is only able to give a small glimpse into the ideal situations to get your brain working towards a breakthrough. As the famous journalist Jack London once said, “Don’t wait for inspiration. Go after it with a club”, and My Own Stationery would encourage you take these findings, and do just that.
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