Some parts of life are natural laws, seemingly immutable by mortal men. Politics will attract highly corrupt individuals. The stock market will crash at some point, and people you know will lose everything when it happens. Rent in the San Francisco Bay Area will rise to a point where you have to be rich enough to own a home or two in Northern California in order to afford a minuscule pad anywhere in San Francisco. In fact, it has gotten so bad, even the 49ers are trying to get their rent lowered!
When workers are making the choice between paying the $20 copay for a doctor visit and having enough gas to drive to work, or residents with gig-economy jobs are paying $400/month rent to live in a bed-sized ‘pod’ in a friend’s living room, you may have reached a tipping point. So unless you are co-founder of one of the Silicon Valley tech giants or have struck gold in another industry, you need to become seriously creative in order to function in the Bay Area; creative enough to abandon your preconceptions about what life ‘should’ consist of, and come up with ways to make it work.
There is a lot of science that shows how stress (for example, stress about how you will pay your rent this month) can kill creativity. “Even a small amount of stress is noisy in the brain,” says David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work. So if you want to be at your most creative even in a thriving startup economy, there are some steps that can help.
How to Maintain High Creativity:
- Keep your physical body healthy and active.
- Reduce your cognitive load (as much as possible).
- Make creativity a routine.
Staying Physically Healthy and Active
The mind-body dichotomy we are steeped in from infancy is a distinctly Western concept, but in recent decades, Eastern philosophy has impacted the perspective of today’s world. For example, we have learned that the mind and body are actually not a dichotomy, but rather a duality; with each one affecting the other like Yin and Yang. This means if you want to have an agile, powerful mind, it helps to maintain an agile, powerful body. This, in turn, means eating properly, which is not the same for every person.
Genetic and epigenetic differences affect how we process certain foods, so there is no single ‘right’ diet. That said, experts generally agree that everyone benefits from eating food that is organic, local, in season, and unprocessed. Experts also generally agree on the value of drinking enough water, keeping yourself free of toxic stressors (in other words, minimize the non-food substances you put into or onto your body), and getting enough rest and exercise.
Reducing Your Cognitive Load
One of the biggest ways to kill your creativity is to keep your mind busy with stuff that creates stress. For example, if your free time is spent thinking about how to pay the rent, you lose out on the ‘wander-mind’ that is vital to inspiration and thus creativity. Put another way, creativity is primarily a matter of drawing new connections; if your brain is stuck on repeat because of stress, nothing new can come up to connect to, and creativity generally does not happen.
The cognitive load is a major issue for gig-economy creatives and it’s not limited to those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only is your brain thinking about your current job and bills, you must also consider your next job, and where it is coming from. Are you advertising yourself well enough? Will it pay enough to clear your bills? Partnering with a staffing agency that focuses on creatives (such as Kinetic Search) can help alleviate these concerns. By ‘outsourcing’ the part of your life that is focused on your next job, you free up all of those cognitive resources to focus on this job; which means your mind is more available to make creative connections and come up with those great ideas that can make your work stand out and ultimately improve your life.
Making Creativity a Routine
Another thing you need to foster creativity is to (perhaps ironically) make creativity a routine. Many people believe creativity is the opposite of routine, but there is a misunderstanding there, because ‘routine’ is not the same as ‘habit.’ Repeating the same activities by rote because you have the patterns in your head is the opposite of creativity; but consciously choosing to create a routine that involves doing something completely different is exactly what gives your brain a wealth of material to draw those aforementioned connections.
Making creativity a routine means clearing time on your schedule and taking that time to expose yourself to something brand new. That can mean something as simple as checking out a book from the library on a subject you had never previously considered (perhaps learning more about San Francisco neighborhoods), or watching a YouTube video and fumbling your way through a complex task you have no experience in. A more intriguing example would be going somewhere you have never been before and engaging the locals — have you even been to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or gone to the iconic Bimbo’s 365 Club for nighttime entertainment?
For gig-economy creatives who are going it on their own and for those who are using a creative staffing agency to find worthwhile employment in the San Francisco Bay Area, thinking outside the box has become a necessity. Take care of your physical health, reduce your stress by ‘outsourcing’ your job search, and cultivate ways to routinely break your routine, and you will be well on your way to making major breakthroughs in your career and your life.