“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” -Albert Einstein
In an interview on The Colbert Report last week, Jonah Lehrer, author of the new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, explained that as much as we’d like to “outsource the imagination” to a special class of pre-ordained creative people or inventors, creativity and imagination lie in all of us. Many of the people lauded for their creative brillance (Steve Jobs comes to mind), achieved breakthroughs not from original ideas, but from “making new connections between old ideas.” I.e., taking an idea or a system or a business or a product, or really, anything, and making it better. Lehrer argues that while we assume that creativity is maximized when we FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS and down three cups of coffee and WORK WORK WORK, studies show that people are most creative when they are relaxed. Recalling Einstein’s words above, Lehrer says, “we need to make time to waste time.” This does not mean that getting a massage or sitting on the beach or staring at the sky is the only answer; obviously hard work, research, perseverance, and collaboration, are essential for successful innovation, however, we need to remember to give ourselves time to RELAX, SIT, BREATHE, BE.
As much as advertisers would love to have us believe that the only creative people alive are sitting on a magenta-teal-colored couch in a glass-enclosed office/amusement park somewhere in Palo Alto where there are free smoothies and yoga balls and iPad apps flying through the air, the truth is that there is creativity in all of us. Me? Yes, YOU. But, I’m not a creative person. Bullshit. Yes, YOU ARE CREATIVE, because you can take old ideas and broken systems and make them better. Innovate, build, establish, serve, organize, re-organize, challenge, protest, design, re-design, construct, de-construct, mix, match, make. Relax with pen and paper, relax with trees and grass, relax with drawing and modeling, relax with sun and sand, relax with Java and HTML, relax with guitar and drums, relax with theory and thought, relax with lens and light, relax with mind and body, relax with bicycle, relax with clay, relax with test tubes, relax with needle and thread, relax with flour and butter, RELAX. Waste time. Create. Because the world needs the creativity in all of us.