Music, Creativity & Productivity

Does listening to headphones while writing/working/reading reduce productivity?

Let’s find out. If you’re not already listening to music, here’s a song I think you might like:

Apache Relay — “Good as Gold” {mp3}

For me, it depends on what I’m doing. For most things I find that it helps reduce the distraction of ambient noise and conversations. But I go back and forth. Because as focus-boosting as listening to music can be, sometimes those overheard conversations can spark new ideas.

Now Gregory Ciotti has added some much-needed science to the mix. Basically, listening to music while writing can be bad:

Since listening to words activates the language center of your brain, trying to engage in other language related tasks (like writing) would be akin to trying to hold a conversation while another person talks over you… while also strumming a guitar.

But it’s good on the assembly line.

And new music and minor chords may hamper concentration, but:

[m]usic with a dissonant tone was found to have no impact to productivity, while music in the major mode had different results: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode.”

Check out the entire article {fast company} to find out when you should listen to classical music, sample playlists and more.

p.s. Apache Relay via {all songs considered}.

Leveraging Your Tribe

I’m a Seth Godin devotee. I blog about him, I read his blog, and I’m overall more inspired to make more stuff because of the way he frames creating and making a difference.

Seth’s new project is a test case of a method of publishing books he thinks will be the future for successful authors. Here’s his Kickstarter pitch, which gives a good overview of what he’s trying to do.

Seth already has the tribe. Now he has proven that you can get over 4,000 people to pledge over $287,000 to help publish a book that is now only an idea. Like he says in the video, Kickstarter isn’t useful for building a tribe, it’s true power is in leveraging the tribe you’ve been working to build.

I started working on my idea today, and I’ll share it with you when it’s ready to be shared.

Writing in Self-Imposed Confinement

This part of an article about singing naked and other rituals of creativity {guardian} caught my eye:

Writing rituals, like all fetishes associated with creativity, are intrinsically interesting. Jonathan Franzen attracted a lot of attention when he described writing The Corrections in a state of primitive solitude. According to Time magazine, “Franzen works in a rented office that he has stripped of all distractions. He uses a heavy, obsolete Dell laptop … Because Franzen believes you can’t write serious fiction on a computer that’s connected to the internet, he not only removed the Dell’s wireless card but also permanently blocked its Ethernet port.”

I don’t think there would be another way to be a full-time, self-employed writer—and physically blocking your computer’s internet port is brilliant. I’d imagine he’d also have to leave his phone at home, too…

How Creativity Works

Jonah Lehrer is making the rounds to promote his new book, “Imagine” {amazon}. One of the major themes is the correlation between a relaxed state of mind and creativity. Anyone who’s spent time banging their head against the desk, stuck on a creative problem—only to find a breakthrough long after you’ve left work—can attest to this.

Here’s an excerpt from the Fresh Air interview:

“Moments of insight are a very-well studied psychological phenomenon with two defining features,” Lehrer tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “The answer comes out of the blue – when we least expect it. … [And] as soon as the answer arrives we know this is the answer we’ve been looking for. … The answer comes attached with a feeling of certainty, it feels like a revelation. These are the two defining features of a moment of insight, and they do seem to play a big role in creativity.”

Scientists have determined that people in a relaxed state and a good mood are far more likely to develop innovative or creative thoughts. And companies are now taking advantage of this fact. Lehrer points to 3M, which started out making packaging tape and has now expanded into other sectors including electronics and pharmaceutical delivery.

“Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth” {new yorker—no subscription required}.

“The Truth About Creativity” {salon}.

‘Banishing Your Inner Critic’

Great explanations of (and solutions to!) a problem every creative person faces on a daily basis.

Why be concerned with your inner critic? In essence, an overactive inner critic acts as a deterrent between the seedlings of great ideas and the fruits of accomplishment. Don’t think you have an inner critic? Think again. The question is not if the troll is there, but rather how big, loud, and disarmingly influential and persuasive it is.

{a list apart}