Great ideas are the ones that shake the world, become billion-dollar businesses, and cement a legacy lasting generations.
The general consensus is that ideas of this caliber are nearly impossible. And, when they do, they drop into the laps of geniuses, not ordinary people like you and me.
While it might seem that serendipity chose people destined for greatness, it’s the reverse.
High achievers find ways to invite luck into their lives, often through unconventional ways that might seem odd to most people.
In this post, we’re sharing the unorthodox methods of successful artists to help illustrate how you can enhance your creativity.
How to Tap the Creative Subconscious
The famous surrealist artist, Salvador Dali, used to fall asleep holding a key, allowing it to drop onto a plate below. The sound would wake him, and he'd capture the dreamlike images that were in his mind upon waking. The “key” here (pun intended) is the ability to access the subconscious to find imagery and ideas that are usually repressed by the conscious mind.
Mystery writer Agatha Christie is said to work out the plot twists of her mystery stories while soaking in her Victorian bathtub, eating apples. Immersed in water, she let her mind wander, letting complex puzzles float to the surface of her mind.
Author and cartoonist Dr. Seuss wore various hats to write and illustrate his whimsical, quirky stories - literally. An avid hat collector, Dr. Seuss saw hats as transformational and would often don a hat to get in the spirit of his writing.
Get the Body Moving, Activate the Mind
German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Regarding creativity, not only did Nietzsche talk the talk, but he walked the walk. During the prime of his writing career, he would walk for hours a day, wandering and exploring many topics he wrote about.
Charles Dickens also took walks through the streets of London, usually for 3 hours every afternoon. The walks served him two-fold - they gave him the mental space to muse on his writing and they fed the references he would use to craft a reliable setting and characters.
One of Japan’s most prolific authors, Haruki Murakami, runs a 10k, swims 1500m or sometimes both when he is writing mode for a novel. In his words, “Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” The exercise routine is mesmerizing to Murakami, allowing him to access a deeper state of mind.
The product of creativity is often the combination of two seemingly unrelated ideas. The subconscious mind is usually more effective and fluid at making these connections. To capture these sparks of ideas, many people keep dream journals, or at least a notebook by their bedside.
When we think of the act of writing, most of us imagine a solitary writer, bent over the desk, either scribbling or tapping away word after word. Yet, as we saw with Nietzsche, Dickens, and Murakami, a significant part of their daily routines involved cardiovascular exercise over long distances. While it might seem indulgent and unrelated, exercising your body keeps your mind clear and focused. And, performing this exercise outside provides useful stories, references, and details to fuel one’s art.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - Stephen King
Above all, finding serendipity isn’t a one-time event. It’s a process that can’t be shortcut. The habits we shared above are part of a routine to promote creative greatness. It’s up to you to put the time in building a system that works for your process. This will take time, hard work, and sacrifice.
After reading how famous artists stimulate their creativity, perhaps you will have some ideas you could implement in your daily practice. Try one tactic this week and notice how it improves the quality of your thoughts and your creative output.