The unlikely secret to unlocking your creative brain: Quitting.
This is why "hard work" doesn't always bring your creative ideas to life.
DD HQ here. Think about the last time you had a creative breakthrough: Was it after hacking away at a problem for hours on end…or did it bubble up when you (finally) allowed yourself to take a break?
You might not want to admit it - or maybe you didn’t even realize that’s what happened - but based on scientific research, we can bet it was the latter.
We know, we know. Quitting is considered a “bad” thing in our always on, always producing culture. The hamster wheel tells us: more work = more output = more success, right?
Well, from a scientific point of view, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Quitting - intentionally - is at the core of creative problem solving, idea generation and even feeling mentally rejuvenated.
In case you forgot, creativity is a natural part of our DNA - though we often lose touch with it because we treat our brains like machines. We’re constantly checking To Do lists, achieving tasks and thinking in a linear way.
But, the moment we become ‘lazy’ (by societal standards), our creative brain is hard at work. That’s because it jumpstarts our brain’s Default Mode Network, or the birthplace of daydreaming up something new.
The science behind quitting ‘hard work’ in favor of active downtime is a bit more complicated than that - and we’ll get into exactly why in a moment. But at a baseline, our creative brains need space around the edges in order to thrive.
And, you can bet that at Daydreamers it’s our mission to make being ‘unproductive’ cool and hardcore again, so, if you ever needed a reason to quit - on a big scale or a small one - read on. Even more, if you’re craving the space to be more human, less robot - our movement is calling your name 🤓
Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by ‘hustle culture’ 😅
We’re being slightly facetious, but in our world today, it feels like “hard work” is our sole, collective metric of success. We tell ourselves that the more effort we put in, the better results we’ll get. We feel guilty when we’re not achieving or producing - striving for that Industrial Revolution level of continuous output.
That way of being doesn’t just apply on a large scale; it seeps into how we think on a daily basis. But, we’re here to tell you that quitting isn’t just a form of rebelling against the status quo; it’s actually inherently…productive.
Our conversation today isn’t necessarily about deconstructing ‘hustle culture’ (TLDR; we’ve talked a lot about the historical implications of hyper-productivity in the past). Though it is about reclaiming the importance of rest, mental breaks and the power of mind-wandering for our creativity and mental health.
To start, let’s understand how our brains work in a simplified way.
From the most basic perspective, our brains are wired to detect change. Think of it like this: your brain is humming along, until it stumbles upon something…different. That’s why, for example, if you live in a city loud sounds can become muted over time. Ambulance sirens no longer register in your mind - until you go on a long, quiet vacation in nature. When you get back home, everything seems louder than ever.
This shift in how we register stimuli when we experience a change (or not) doesn’t just apply to our senses - it’s the exact same process when we’re charging against a problem. Continuous, repetitive ‘hard work’ means that we’re basically trying to fit the existing puzzle pieces together, rather than asking, “What if things could be different…?”
That’s where quitting comes in.
Our best ideas bubble up when we’re not trying hard, and even more - when we allow our minds to wander. Active downtime helps our brain return to the Default Mode Network, an intricate combination of regions that are geared towards connecting the dots we may not see on the surface.
And, most importantly, daydreaming helps us feel mentally restored. Taking mental breaks sends our brain on a positive upward spiral, which in turn helps us become happier, less stressed and more connected.
The way that we quit is important though. A few years ago, a study out of Nature looked at the impact of ‘quitting’ as it relates to creative breakthroughs in 3 different ways: doing nothing, doing something intense or daydreaming. Guess which type of quitting helped with creativity the most? Those who had active downtime - i.e. mind-wandering - performed 41% better than their counterparts on creative tasks.
This isn’t just a scientific thing, either. Creators, inventors, status-quo pushers alike have been prioritizing mental breaks for centuries. Our favorite nerd at DD - Albert Einstein - was known for taking long breaks to mind-wander when working on solving tough problems, which he called ‘thought experiments'.’ He literally came up with the Theory of Relativity while imagining himself riding a sunbeam to the edge of the Universe during the school day. Talk about a daydream 🤯
This combination of science, history and culture has driven us at Daydreamers to think about the best ecosystem to let our creative brains breathe - which is why we’re so excited to launch a new feature to our Early Access Community we’re calling Explore. It’s a space for us to wonder, learn and imagine, together, by stretching our knowledge + prompting mind-wandering.
So, if you’re here for expanding your creative brain - and reframing quitting as the birthplace of creativity, rather than something to be ashamed of - we’re with you. Come hang out with us and remember how to unwind productivity culture and in turn, be more human, less robot.
In the meantime: find something to quit - intentionally - today 🛸 With us?
Katina + Dupi
and the entire team @ DD HQ
Daydreamers is in Early Access, but we’re growing our crew in a conscious way - and you can see if you’re a fit while there’s still room. Sign up for our waitlist here (and maybe you’ll get a special welcome from us!).
An idea to noodle on 💭
More effort doesn’t = more creativity
THINK ON THIS: Actually, trying less is where it’s at. Research has shown that our brains can only stay focused for so long. When we overextend our time in linear thinking-mode, we ultimately have less self-control and engage in impulsive decision-making more easily. For our skeptical friends, taking daydreaming breaks are inherently productive - and good for our well-being.
…MAYBE NOT THAT: You don’t have to have it all figured out before breaking for active downtime. In fact, that’s exactly the magic behind creative breakthroughs. Scientists have found that the “Incubation Effect” is when our Default Mode Network does it’s thing without needing much direction. So, next time you’re stuck on a problem, step away and tell your creative brain to figure it out - it worked for our friend, Albert.
Inside our brains at DD HQ 🧠
Do we humans love novelty or familiarity? We’d argue, both. We’re all for taking care of our brains over the long-term at DD (btw - creativity helps). Fostering purpose is core to all we do at DD - and we love to see that creativity is a major component of living a meaningful life. Okay okay, we could not be more here for this - knitting…poolside?!
What’s new in the DD World this wk 🛸
We’re so moved by this POV from our DD community member in our private chat, we thought you would be, too.
“…I have been really touched by the daydreamers emphasis on creativity beyond some of the common societal definitions of it. Since I started my daydreamers journey I’ve been noticing a kind of everyday creativity that really enhances my life…"
BTW - pondering, thinking and exercising our creative brain within the Daydreamers collective has been one of our favorite parts of 2023 so far. If you’re craving a space to express yourself and wonder - together - join us here.