Sorry, I’ve got to run…
It’s when I get all my best ideas.
A woman visited my studio not long ago, and I was showing her the variety of my artwork—pastels, watercolors, painted hubcaps, my carved books and book sculptures. I told her about the classes I teach and a new project. She shook her head and asked me, “Do you just lie awake at night thinking up all these different ideas?”
The reality is that I exercise a lot. When I am out for a run, my body is working, but my brain is in a different place. That’s when my head is swimming with creative, new ideas. It’s not unusual for me to come home from a run and have to scribble down 10 things, from ideas for paintings to some small action to help solve a problem. Most of the things I think of never actually get done; some of them are that kind of wild idea. For the most part, though, if there is a problem that has been niggling at me, the answer will come during a nice 4 mile run.
There is actually some science behind this! There are three basic factors that lend the brain toward “eureka” moments. Start with an activity (such as exercise, showering and driving a car) that triggers a release of dopamine in the brain. Add a relaxed state of mind, which in my case is the familiar jogging path. Finally, give the brain a slight amount of distraction, such as engaging music.
Surely you have also experienced these “eureka” moments! Do you want to have them more often? Then plan and build opportunities into your day. Create space for relaxed, repetitive activities. Turn off your phone (but crank the music) for the drive home from work. Turn off the TV and pick up some sort of handiwork (knitting, woodworking, painting) instead.
Tell me about one of your “eureka” moments. What will you do to provide fertile ground for idea growth?