Our culture promotes a stereotype that creators like writers and entrepreneurs must sacrifice everything—food, sleep, relationships—for the cause. Long hours, sacrifices, and courageous decisions take a toll, and exhausted people are less efficient and make poor, even dangerous decisions. The US Center for Disease Control has declared sleep-deprivation an epidemic which leads to serious health issues and compares drowsy driving to drunk driving. 

As a creator, you need maximum health and energy, and you want to think straight. What if you could work more efficiently with less exhaustion, and more energy and creativity? 

In school, cramming never worked as well as consistent, daily study, which led to cumulative, more lasting learning. This is even more true of creating, a type of learning from the inside. Creativity requires incubation time, with direct, intense research and thinking effort relieved by periods of rest and renewal. We need time for each type of thinking:  

  • Thinking
    • Research questions.
    • Ponder and discuss.
    • Directly seek solutions.
  • Exploring
    • Learn about unrelated fields, absorbing new perspectives.
    • Enjoy reading, podcasts, presentations, or drama. 
    • Relax or do another type of work with family and friends.
  • Being Quiet
    • Pray, meditate and/or spend time in nature. 
    • Be ready to record great ideas that surface while moving in habitual ways: walking, exercising, showering, driving, doing household chores.
    • Allow breaks from devices, where you aren’t listening, watching, or reading, so intuitive ideas have room to surface.
  • Sleeping and dreaming
    • Some of the greatest discoveries and inventions have come through dreams and meditative states. 
    • Aim for your personal quota, where you awaken naturally, rested, with full dream cycles.

Your subconscious mind is eager to help you solve problems. As you research, unanswered questions and unsolved problems inspire your subconscious to continue working night and day, delivering ideas through random thoughts as you shift among other activities, including dreaming. You can increase the frequency and quality of ideas: 

  • Feed your subconscious with all the conscious-level thinking and research you can.
  • Record specific questions and problems that stump you. 
  • Mind-map potential connections and ideas. It mimics our brains’ connective processing. 
  • Discuss your questions with others. 
  • Keep regular appointments to check in with your subconscious, such as first thing in the morning, lunch breaks, the end of each workday, last thing at night.
  • Choose a quick, consistent way to record notes if you awaken in the night or have a new idea on the treadmill. 

How well are you treating your brain and your energy?

ActivitiesNeverRarelySometimesOftenUsually
Adequate sleep, full dream cycles     
Hydration     
Balanced nutrition     
Exercise     
Limiting alcohol, etc.     
Social safety and connection: healthy relationships with family and friends     

How are you involved in each of these mental states? What would help you make the most of them? Is there anything you want to change? 

Mental StatesInvolvementIdeas 
Thinking  
Exploring  
Quiet  
Sleep  

How will you practice one or two of your ideas? 

  • Add to your calendar
  • Use an applicable app
  • Enlist a friend’s support 
  • Other

What helps you nurture your creativity?