"Miss Scott, are you listening?! Or have you got your head in the clouds?
This was a common question addressed to me by my high school marine biology teacher. What appeared to him to be a case of absent-mindedness was in fact my creative mind at work. Life at the bottom of the ocean had such intrigue. What would it be like for the fish that never saw sunlight? How did the jellyfish exist without a brain? I wondered if it was true that sharks kept on swimming, even when they slept.
I knew back then that I wanted to work in the creative industry, and while many of my compulsory school subjects seemed somewhat irrelevant to my future career path, gaining valuable experience in having my ‘head in the clouds’ was exactly what I needed.
It's foggy up here.
To be a creative (or a professional dreamer) is intense, brutal and exciting. Idea generation requires a method: distilling data, identifying insights and understanding human behaviour to solve questions that have not yet been asked. Your ideas are constantly being challenged and your confidence tested. Our product is a public expression of our own thoughts, open for everyone to submit their opinion.
Shifting your mind to creatively innovate requires a number of ingredients, but for me the most important is uninterrupted time, a constantly evolving musical playlist and a physical space that encourages 'wandering'. The school report card that used to read 'often travels off task' now seems completely justified and even rewarded.
Sleep on it.
Three years ago, I read a book from the early 40s titled ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young. Young identifies a methodology towards idea generation that helped me to encourage my own.
In one particular chapter he explores the importance of time away from a project, once all the options are exhausted and the ideas tank is empty. Young identifies the ‘The Incubating Stage’ and expresses the need to do something else to stimulate your emotions and inspiration, and in effect allow your subconscious mind to work through the problem.
What?! The brief is due in two days?!
This process however is built on the luxury of time, a factor that is not always in my favour. When briefs are delivered in the morning and ideas are needed by the end of the day, I often look to find ways to manipulate this method for the 9-5 creative workday.
Lunch breaks, gym sessions and bonding over the latest viral video serve an important role in stimulating my mind to think about something else. Don't talk to me about work during lunch – I’m taking a much-needed time out!
What can appear to be wasting valuable hours is in fact acting as micro incubator sessions. Even though these diversions can seem risky when time is at a minimum and the stress is running high, they are a very important part of the process.
The 9-5 creative.
Squeezing creativity into an 8-hour day is an interesting equation. Some days the concepts can begin to flow the minute my 6:30am alarm sounds while at other times there are more blank sheets of paper than award winners.
It can be an unforgiving profession, especially when the solution rears its head at 11pm at night, and you cannot shut it down.
One thing is for certain: there is no absolute answer for any problem. There is no maths equation to solve or theory to disprove. The landscape is constantly evolving; what may seem right today could be wrong tomorrow.
Each day will look different from the last, and the future?... Well that's left to those who are brave enough to forge their way through the uncharted waters.
Originally published August 1st 2013 on thewhiteagency.com.au