We have two types of brains chugging away in our heads, a logical straightforward engine and a second, more dreamlike thinker. Some people call this the tortoise brain, because it operates more slowly. This kind of thinking takes over when the logical side of you drifts off, allowing you to boost your creativity.
Many artists have chanced on this trick of the mind. Here are some famous creative types and their dreamlike techniques:
Beethoven was the World’s Worst Tenant
The great composer had a particular habit of bathing as a way to get his creative juices flowing. He stood at the washstand and poured large pitchers of water over his hands, bellowing the scales at the top of his lungs all the while. This bizarre form of meditation often led to the scribbling of notes.
If any servants saw this, they burst out laughing, causing Beethoven to curse them out. Additionally, he spilled so much water that it dribbled into the downstairs apartment.
Perhaps nowadays, we can simply slip into the shower to achieve the same meditative trance.
Yoshiro Nakamatsu Flirted with Death
The Japanese inventor of the floppy disk, karaoke and the digital watch maintained a dangerous method to generate new ideas. It must have worked as he’d patented 3,357 of them.
To shut down the logical side, he would “starve the brain of oxygen.” He dived down to the bottom of a swimming pool and held his breath. He claimed that “An idea comes instantly and disappears instantly.” He thus invented a waterproof notepad and would jot down the idea just before he ran out of breath, or as he puts it “Zero-point-five seconds before death.”
He also had a bathroom constructed with no nails and tiled in 24-karat gold. This supposedly encouraged creative thinking by blocking radio and television waves.
Nakamatsu did have a lifeguard on duty should his creative bouts become too dangerous. Perhaps we can simply take a leisurely swim.
Salvador Dalí and Thomas Edison Almost Fell Asleep
Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí knew that dreaming held the keys to creativity. The only problem… to get to the dreamlike state you had to fall asleep. He solved this dilemma with a spoon.
He would hold a spoon in his hand and let himself drift off into sleep. The moment he’d reached the hypnagogia stage of sleep. This is like a doorway from the waking world to the Land of Nod. His relaxed body would then release the spoon, which clattered on the ground, waking him. He began working immediately afterward, seizing on whatever idea his dreamlike mind had produced.
Thomas Edison did much the same technique, using metal ball bearings held over a bowl. The inventor hardly slept when working, often snoozing for only three hours a day.
This is perhaps the safest technique to use as a creative type (holding the spoon, not the sleep deprivation). In fact scientists have tested this idea and found that the hypnagogic state is a perfect creativity cocktail.
Whatever technique you use, the important thing is to shut down the logical, straightforward side of your brain. This is the one that knocks down ideas because they seem too far fetched or strange. Oddity is an essential element to imagination. Sip whichever creativity cocktail works for you and boost your own ideas.
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