The complete guide to having a creative breakthrough

By Hannah Newman | @HannahNewmanSci

We all struggle for a moment of insight.


Whether you’ve been banging your head against the wall for days or just woke up to a problem this morning, the desire for a creative boost is a powerful one. It’s the same feeling that plagues writers facing a blank page or advertisers developing a brand’s next campaign—and learning how to achieve it can have a profound impact. Here are some tips to avoid your next headache or create something the world has never seen before:


Just like a car needs gas to drive, your brain needs sleep to fire on all cylinders. Sleep consolidates what you’ve learned throughout the day, strengthening neural connections and, more importantly, creating new ones. Making original associations between different pieces of information stored throughout the brain (like that thing you read in the news and your college professor’s dog) is at the heart of having a “eureka” moment (Archimedes supposedly coined the termwhile running naked through the streets of Syracuse, Italy after realizing the fraud in Hiero’s “gold” crown by stepping into his bath and seeing water spill out.) For most adults seven hours of shuteye is recommended; new research suggests eight might be too much. So even if you don’t work at a company with designated “nap rooms” or Energypods, make sure to plan your sleep schedule accordingly.

So grab a buddy and begin talking. Within the constant tension, dialogue, and sheer physical proximity lies an “Aha!” moment waiting to happen.

A recent study led by Wenfu Li, a psychology professor at Southwest University in China, found that individuals who had the most “openness to experience” were significantly more likely to be creative. Though openness, one of the classic “Big Five Personality Traits,” is not just marked by a willingness to try new things. You can also increase your openness by unleashing your inner child and being more imaginative, paying close attention to your feelings, and pondering complex issues.  

Letting the unconscious mind work its magic may do more than just help with novel idea generation; it can also help you identify which of your ideas are the most creative, suggests a related study done by Dijksterhuis, Simone M. Ritter, and Rick B. van Baaren of Radbound University Nijmegen’s Behavioral Science Institute in the Netherlands. In this case, participants who played a computer game for two minutes instead of thinking about the problem at hand (how a student can earn some extra money) were twice as good at weeding out which of their ideas were the most creative.

So don’t be afraid to take time away from the problem you’re trying to solve andlet it stew. It’s no surprise insights often happen in the shower or while daydreaming. Giving your mind a break may be just the thing you need to generate your next creative breakthrough.

This article was originally published on Quartz. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.