In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s classic book on creativity, it can only exist if surplus attention is available.
If the majority of human attention is taken up with survival needs—finding food, shelter or safety—it is almost impossible to be creative or to learn new things. (Policy-makers need to keep this in mind when they adopt an overly hard-line attitude towards the disadvantaged in society….)
The author identifies 4 things you can do every day to enhance your attention and promote your creativity:
- Try to be surprised by something every day. This means noticing things you might normally gloss over, like a new menu item, an unusual car, or something a colleague says.
- Try to surprise one person every day. This can mean expressing an opinion you’d normally keep to yourself, or going someplace you don’t usually go, or changing your appearance. Routines are good for saving energy but if you don’t feel creative or are searching, you need to shake it up.
- Write down what surprises you or how you surprise others. You enrich life when you make fleeting experiences less fleeting. Assigning importance to them by writing them down regularly may reveal patterns and new avenues you’d enjoy exploring.
- When something strikes you as interesting, follow and explore it. As Ebenezer Scrooge learns in “A Christmas Carol”, his business isn’t his only business—the world is supposed to be his business.
Devoting time and attention every day to finding, documenting, or creating the surprising is an important tool to becoming creative—and to being fully human.
May we pursue our paths, allowing ourselves the time and attention to nurturing our creativity,