In a recent article, "Want to Brainstorm New Ideas? Then Limit Your Online Connections," Steve Lohr, a New York Times journalist elucidated the idea that creative thought is compromised by excess information or “clustering. ” In other words, if we are flooded with data without time to contemplate, ponder and reflect, we are less likely to come up with innovations.
Jesse Shore, co-author of the research cited and assistant professor at the Boston University School of Management, said, “Being connected all the time has costs.” Gathering information and sharing is great, but we need a break for a few reasons.
It is clear that the mind needs to rest and digest for health as well as creativity. As photographer and Rutgers professor Gary Schneider told me the white space is just as important as the image itself. Psychologist William James described a fluctuation between directed and undirected thinking as the natural state of the mind.
Many people feel overburdened and crave quiet, peace and stillness. The need for balance is intuitive, but cultural mores, work, family and social demands can preclude this. There is much research to support the idea that people suffer and children do not develop properly with hyper-focus and no free time. Creativity, empathy, compassion, relatedness and even morality are compromised. Depression ensues. (Psychologist Dr. Peter Gray has written about how serious the need for play is for children.)
So why is it hard to check out, be in a quiet place and receive what rises from within? Why don’t we “Just Do It,” as in the Nike philosophy?
It is hard not to be plugged in. We are eager to know, anxious about catching up and excited to share. We fear emptiness, aloneness and nothing to do. We are curious about the latest. We can help others by getting information out fast. Work, family and friends need for us to be accessible at all hours. If we are not reachable, we worry.
But if our minds, bodies and creativity do not have regular doses of Mind Rest (as recommended in our book the Creativity Cure), we crumble, get sad or get stuck. Spontaneous discovery emerges when the mind is relaxed. Friday Shabbos, Sunday Rest, once rituals, served wellness, happiness and indirectly, productivity. I had a highly accomplished client who said what made her happiest was Friday Shabbos with friends and family. It was better than her umpteen awards.
Recently I was visiting a town in the Southwest, and thought, “They still have Saturdays here!” I could hear splashing, laughing and country music.
Downtime is not wasteful so don’t feel guilty. Just being not doing, living not striving and letting not controlling allows for carefree moments and creative connections. Whether you prefer solitude or company or both in balance, it is good for you and yours to schedule a solid break in the action.
Scholar Dr. Andrew Brink called creativity the original antidepressant. Meaningful conversations with others or a dialogue within the self can alleviate pain. If you let go for a while, you might make some useful or joyful connections.