Can Your Computer Drain Your Creativity?

South Downs nr Fulking, Sussex photo: A.K.Andrew

South Downs nr Fulking, Sussex
photo: A.K.Andrew

Creativity and computers have been trying to blend together for some time now. Photoshop, painting apps, word processing freeing up writing time by throwing out the tipex and carbon paper. And yet how many of you feel that the time spent in front of your computer actually drains your creativity?

I recently read an article in the Pacific Standard that did a field test about creativity and nature. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Have you been staring cow-eyed at a computer all morning? Fiddling with your iPhone in line at Starbucks? Checking Twitter and ESPN every four minutes on your tablet?

Good. Here’s a little quiz. What one word ties these three ideas together: water + tobacco + stove? How about widow + bite + monkey? Or, envy + golf + beans?

Psychologists call such wordplay the “remote associates test,” or RAT, and use it to study creativity and intuition. The idea is that it requires a nimble, open mind to find the connection between seemingly unrelated ideas—in this case pipe, spider, and green.”

The study goes on to compare responses after people have been hiking in nature. Of course the results improve. But is this really to do with nature itself, or simply having relaxation time away from the computer? For some people a hike in the woods would be torture, and they might achieve the same rejuvenating effect with a walk around an art gallery, or even a shopping mall.

Do Computers Free Your Time for Creativity?

On one level, our computers free up time for creativity by making certain practical tasks easier e.g. editing and printing. Computers also give us the means to express ourselves in ways that were previously impossible . However, do you ever question whether the practical benefits outweigh the time we lose in the myriad of things we now do with our technology? Think Facebook. Think looking up a factoid and not returning to your original project until an hour and a half later as one “interesting article” distracted you and one website led to another.

Without doubt we can network with others more easily. We might link up with creatively like minded individuals, or pursue online learning opportunities. But in terms of encouraging or tapping into our creativity, is our time better served in other pursuits?

 How well do you manage your computer time with your creative life? Does it complement or detract from your creativity? If the latter, what things would you like to change?

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Computer screen garden (2)

Computer screen garden (2) (Photo credit: 4nitsirk)




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