Have you hit the end of school year blues yet? That moment where teachers feel like they have run out of inspiration and students have started the summer count down? That moment where graduate students realize that there is not enough caffeine in the world to get them through those last few weeks? This is panic time and, as a first year graduate student, I am staring at a pile of projects and a list of assignments and I feel fresh out of ideas. My creativity is gone and dead, buried under a pile of work a foot high and a mile wide.
For those of you in my boat, who need that creative boost and inspiration to get through the last little bit of the year, I have good news. There is actually a creativity strategy called a “creative pause.” Just think of how wonderful that word sounds right now– pause. Pause implies peace, quiet, a moment of rest and, frankly, right now that sounds almost as good as a massage. Notice that I said almost there. I am not that crazy (yet).
The brainchild of Dr.Edward de Bono, a creative pause is that moment where, mid-project or idea, you just slow down and let the idea sink in. This isn’t a desperate, scrambling for an idea activity, but just a pause of thirty seconds or more to let an idea sit in your head. Maybe another solution will slip into your brain, maybe a way to improve your idea, or maybe you will just have that second of calm in the middle of your day.
Like mindfulness, a creative pause is not a quest for the next great innovation but a chance to rest and restore. How often have you suddenly hit on the solution to a problem in the shower? A new idea in your sleep? A new way of seeing something while you are out for a walk? And how many great ideas and solutions come while you are desperately staring at your computer, hyped on caffeine and anxiety? If you are like me, than the truly great ideas are the ones that come when you are away from the computer and the truly desperate, bottom of the barrel ones, are the ones that come in the anxiety and caffeine fueled haze of the computer death stare.
Starko (2010) has described a creative pause as “an opportunity for focus and change” (p.141) while Cameron Moll (2008) writes “that deliberate interruptions, whether short or an unknown period of time, maybe helpful to problem solving.” And even if that small, creative pause doesn’t give you your next great idea maybe this will happen to you: “With no goals to meet or specific desires to fulfill, a creative pause is a simple addition to a busy day that can completely shift your outlook and mood.” (Pfannkuch, 2014).
So as the end of the year heats up and stress builds up, remember to, every now and then, take a creative pause. Give yourself permission to walk away from the problem and to just let the ideas sit while you do something else. And, just maybe with a little luck, maybe a great idea or a new way to solve a problem will come to you.
Moll, C. (November, 2008). Why thinking in the shower may be an ideal model for “creative pause.” Retrieved from http://cameronmoll.com/archives/2008/11/showering_and_thinking/
Pfannkuch, K. (June, 2014). Blending a creative pause into your lifestyle. Retrieved from http://creativekatrina.com/blending-creative-pause-lifestyle/
Starko, A. (2010). Creativity in the Classroom: School of Curious Delight, 4th ed. New York, NY: Routledge.