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Allow time for fermentation

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

“Creativity is about the fermentation of thoughts, knowledge, and experiences.” Sukant Ratnakar

Beer fermenting in a glass
The fermentation process of beer can't be rushed, we all know that. Creativity is the same.

The creative process can't be rushed, even if we're on a deadline. The Nintendo action-adventure game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, famously ran over by 2 years, taking 6 years, 1000 plus game developers, and burning through $100 million. Producer Eiji Aonuma said of the project: "This was a development process where on numerous occasions we had to say, 'Sorry, we need more time'… a lot of problems got naturally resolved over time."

“Creative responses, by their nature, are extremely complicated creatures. Our brain needs time to fully connect the various pieces, which can take hours or days or weeks.”

Obviously, the bigger a creative project is, the more complex it is, and therefore the longer it's going to take. But it's deeper than that; even the shortest of ventures benefit from being left alone for a while.

Our brains are big, but our capacity is small

But why is that? What is it about any creative output that benefits from being ignored? Our minds take in millions of pieces of information every second, but we can only process around 40 of those at a time. This doesn't mean we're unaware of details; we are! Our brains just need time to properly fit all the pieces together.

This is what happens when, while driving down the road, a solution to a problem we've been having suddenly pops into our heads. Our brains had already taken in all the relevant bits of information about the issue; it just took time for it to juggle everything around before it could make it all fit together.

Essentially, tight time scales are the enemy of quality creative output, even artificially imposed ones. Undoubtedly, the more experienced you become around a particular creative outlet, the quicker you can become. But the science on this says that it takes thousands and thousands of hours to become really good at something (see the book by Malcolm Gladwell - Outliers, for more on that).

Starting earlier allows our minds to fully flex their creative muscles

So how do you make more time for something when all we seem to suffer from is a distinct lack of it? The answer is simple; start earlier. Procrastination is the bane of the creative; when we leave our creative work to the last minute, we deny our brains the space it needs to piece all the complex parts together.

The good news is that we don't have to start the whole exercise at once; often, all we need is a little start, one that gets our Reticular Activating System going (more on that in my blog post here). Once we open our brain to something new, it starts a unique process of becoming much more aware of that thing, all in the background, without thinking of it.

Simply put, we can all become more creative when we allow our minds the time it needs.

Why not give it a try?

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