Why Creativity Matters: Ten Minutes a Day

 In Blog

Previously Published in Silver Sage Magazine, January 30, 2019.

Think LEFT and think RIGHT and think LOW and think HIGH.

Oh, the THINGS you can think UP if only YOU try.

–Dr. Seuss

In the rush of our lives, it does not often seem possible to squeeze in time to paint, draw, write, do crafts, or perform music. Between family commitments, the demands of work, and a nominal commitment to health and fitness, time becomes a precious commodity. The tremendous irony is that when we tap into our creative core, we become better at problem solving and the other skills that enhance our performance in every aspect of our lives.

A great deal of work has been done in the area of brain science and neuroplasticity. Simply put, neuroplasticity refers to the way our brain is able to change and make new neural connections throughout our lives, in particular in response to learning, a new experience, trauma, or injury. When we encounter something new, our brain changes its map of neural connections. This structural flexibility facilitates our ability to connect experiences, concepts, and ideas and identify the relationships between them as well as develop creative thought. However minor it may be, our overall cognitive performance is improved when we learn something new. Many scientists believe that by engaging in novel, challenging activities, we can train the brain to create new neural pathways to engage areas of the brain that we use less frequently. Such activities might include learning to play a musical instrument, dancing, taking a drawing course, or taking different routes to and from work and home on a daily basis. All of these create breaks in routine tasks, thus allowing our neurological development to continue.

In the field of education, we reference brain theory regularly. We encourage students and staff to have a “growth mindset,” that is, to be open-minded. We want individuals to understand that they can continue to improve themselves through active learning. This practice typically involves effort, study, and feedback from others. We know that open-minded people tend to put energy into their learning and are also more often collaborative and innovative. They are typically referred to as “creative thinkers,” or people who “think outside the box.” There is nothing innately brilliant about many of these individuals—they are simply curious people who have, at some level, tapped into their creativity.

In today’s work environment, it is important to engage in “creative ideation,” or high-performance thinking. Individuals who excel in these ways tend to be people who can imagine, solve problems, innovate, brainstorm, invent, and communicate in unique ways. They also tend to be flexible in their perception of things and in their willingness to modify routine performances or the execution of tasks. Such people tend to embrace experimentation in the workplace, doing so without the fear of judgment. They know that group thinking and creativity often result in new solutions to difficult problems.

Beyond the workplace however, creativity has a more central place in our lives. It’s fun! People lose track of time when they are doing something they they enjoy. Creativity and passion are often synonymous. So how can we make time in our busy lives for a creative outlet? My suggestion is one that I have used throughout my career, and it’s very simple: Ten Minutes a Day. Ten Minutes a Day is a rule that I have lived by during the busiest times of my career, while also navigating the pressures of family and daily life. I have always tried to allocate at least ten minutes a day to work on something that I am passionate about, something that really matters to me. I completed the draft of my first novel by writing for ten minutes a day, over an eight-year period. Admittedly, I gave myself more than ten minutes whenever I was able, but I always made sure that I spent at least that amount of time doing something with my writing. If I was too tired to be eloquent, I spent the ten minutes editing or doing some related research.

I’ve come to believe that all of us are inherently creative and that we need to give ourselves permission in the midst of busy lives to enjoy and nurture our creativity. I maintain that if we do so, we will become happier, more fulfilled individuals, and that the carry-over will ensure that we are also more productive and innovative. No matter who we are or where we find ourselves on life’s journey, making creativity a priority only serves to enrich our view of the world.