How often have you started an exciting project only to leave it unfinished? How many times have you caught yourself getting distracted from something you were once looking forward to developing?
If you find yourself counting more than one finger in response to the above questions, there is most likely something going on inside your brain that keeps you and itself from working to full potential.
Kevin Dalby graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Organic Chemistry and is currently teaching chemical biology and medicinal chemistry at The University of Texas in Austin. Creativity is an essential foundation in all areas of life, and for those ready to train and re-focus the mind to get the creative juices rapidly flowing, Dalby recommends these three simple steps:
Step #1: Discover your relaxation triggers
When tuning into your creative side, it is best to start in a relaxed state. When you are comfortable with a mind at ease, creativity can flow freely and naturally through your brain. There are many different forms of relaxation, including taking a walk, reading, or listening to classical music.
If your distracting thoughts keep you from reaching moments of innovation, try meditation. There are several different forms of meditation to help clear your mind such as breathing techniques, timed meditation, or meditation-nap. A meditation-nap is when you choose a comfortable area to lie, such as a bed, couch, or even an empty bath full of pillows. Close your eyes and allow your mind to go blank. Some like to pair this meditation time with soothing background music.
Step #2: Challenge your box
Now that you are relaxed, it is time to start greasing the creative gears. Creativity spawns from thinking outside the box, but sometimes it can be challenging to identify what that box is right away.
A great practice to pivot your thoughts in the right direction is to develop your box through restrictions. For example, while writing and illustrating children’s books, Dr. Seuss made a bet that he could formulate a story under fifty words; thus, the famous Green Eggs & Ham was born. Putting limits on what you are trying to do helps to avoid creative repetition while building on a new perspective. If you are an artist, try curbing how much paint you use or restraining from using all but a defined group of colors.
Step #3: Practice Nudges
What are creativity nudges? When you hit a creative wall during your thinking, try using nudges to get back on track. A creative nudge is when you spark imagination that leads to creativity through a changed action, feeling, or scenery. A physical or social altercation for a nudge could be as simple as walking into a room with contrasting color walls, choosing cold coffee over warm, or switching up where things sit on your desk.
Practice makes perfect, especially with processes. Creativity is a process within itself, and once you find the methods that work best for you, practice routinely.
About Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin. He is studying the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the National Institutes of Health recognize Dr. Dalby’s efforts by supporting his research. When he is not working, Kevin Dalby enjoys photography and spending time in the Texas countryside with his dogs.