People often say they work well under pressure. I used to say I did, and at one time I really believed it. Actually, what I think I meant was that I worked efficiently and effectively under pressure, and that much is true. Efficiency, responsiveness and reliability are all great attributes in the workplace, but in recent years, I have become very much more aware that it can all too easily come at the cost of true creativity. With a deadline approaching, it’s temptingly easy to take refuge in safe work resulting in boring mediocrity. And who wants that?
“The creative act does not create something out of nothing; it uncovers, selects, reshuffles, combines and synthesises already existing facts, ideas, faculties, skills. The more familiar the parts, the more striking the new whole…”
In other words, we have to keep the well of ideas and resources full up to maximum capacity at all times just to enable the magical-eureka-mega-creative idea to emerge: which always seems to happen when you least expect it to. Obviously you can do your best to encourage it, but you can’t generally demand it to order. Which is why a tight deadline isn’t ideal if it makes you shut out the unconscious when you most need it.
So when are these unlikely times for great ideas to appear? The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences carried out some research which suggested that experiencing nature and sitting in boring meetings were both pleasantly fertile times for the imagination. Sadly, interesting meetings were not so productive. And creativity techniques were the least productive of all…
My own top tips?
Walking round the lake in Roundhay Park; drinking coffee in my local caff; dreams whilst asleep; the M1 (pretty much anywhere along the entire run)…
But first prize for the most creatively stimulating environment in my life by far goes to Sheepscar Junction, north of Leeds City Centre. Just passing through those traffic lights, on green or red, is quite the highlight of any journey along that route. I have had so many good ideas driving through Sheepscar that I think my brain is now primed to produce a big idea at the mere approach.
If you catch me there with a notebook, sketchpad or easel one day, you’ll know why.