GPS FOR THE SOUL

5 Unexpected Ways To Spark Your Creative Genius

Aug 06, 2013 | Updated Oct 02, 2013
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The great, 18th-century poet Friedrich Schiller, liked to have a smell of rotten apples on nose hand when manifesting his masterpieces.

Exhale: You needn't keep a compost of spoiled fruit around to do something great. While a strike of creative genius can't necessarily be forced, there are a few clever ways to get your juices flowing:

Use your nose.
Maybe Schiller was on to something. When your head's not working, your nose might be of assitance. One study found those who were exposed to rosemary aroma had higher concentration and cognitive performance. Cinnamon and vanilla scents have also been linked to increased creativity -- so open that spice cabinet and take a long, deliberate whiff.

Do something utterly monotonous.
You curse your day job for being oh-so-dull, but it might be just the place for your best ideas to incubate. One 2012 study showed that performing somewhat mindless tasks -- think assembly line -- liberates the mind to wander. The research speculates that this kind of subconscious thought may enhance creative thinking. Even if your job is incomprehensibly riveting (you lucky thing), you might benefit from the mundane. Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics, would often count pea plants and honeybees. Most would argue the scientist reached great epiphany.

Turn off the telly.
Though we all feel inexplicably inspired when watching bachelorette meltdowns , this kind of mindless activity is not one that fosters brilliance. One study reveals that watching such low-brow (sorry) entertainment actually makes us dumber. Called media priming, this concept suggests watching or reading a particular action will stimulate similar thought and behavior. This isn't all bad news: The opposite behavior garners the same results. So, watching (or reading) intelligent, creative or smart fodder could have a positive impact on your behavior. Feel free to get a little pretentious the next time you need fresh perspective and indulge in one of these books by candlelight.

Keep a dry-erase marker by your bathroom mirror.
If you haven't experienced it for yourself, you've at least heard it before: Our best ideas often materialize in the shower. Unfortunately, we tend lose the insight by the time we towel dry. Take a tip from Austin Kleon, author of "Steal Like An Artist," to ensure that fleck of genius doesn't escape you. "If I have an idea in the shower, I write it down on my Aqua Notes pad, and if I have one after I step out of the shower, I’ll use a dry-erase marker to write it on the bathroom mirror," the artist told The Huffington Post. The waterproof notepad and the accessible pen provide a dual-insurance that'll keep both your ideas and you (no accidental shower-slips when you go to grab a pen) safe when sagacity strikes.

Write by hand.
Scribbling something down when your devices are dead is one thing, but deliberately using a pen gives some permanence to your thoughts. In ink, a phrase or idea has the chance to live -- an opportunity to stew, fester and grow into something more. On the screen, with the quick double-tap of the delete button, it vanishes.

Even more, you'll be using more brainpower when you choose to write by hand: Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says the act stimulates a much larger portion of the brain’s thinking and "working memory" regions than does typing.

Writing by hand might also pull you out of routine (since we're all so mercilessly plugged-in) and incite something new within. As author Lee Rourke writes in The Guardian, "The constant tap-tap-tap-tap on the keyboard reminds me of all the offices I've worked in. The sound bores into me, it fills me with an anxiety I could do without. I feel like I'm signing off invoices rather than writing my next novel." Perhaps paper is the escape you need.

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