Oasis of Time and Space
I just watched John Cleese’s talk on creativity and found it mind-blowing. In science we are so caught up with hitting milestone, getting assays to work, getting perfect blots, reading through 5 papers before leaving the lab, quantify another three data sets before leaving etc, that we don’t give outselves the time to actually think.
John Cleese puts it brilliantly describing how when he go stuck trying to finish a skecth he’d go to bed and by the time he returned to his desk it would be blindingly obvious what he had to do and he would be unable to recall why he was so stumped in the first place. He goes on to discuss how we need free space for our brain to have the most creative thought. This is extremely relevent to scientists.
A point to illustrate this is another story from a famous man, the current head of the Royal Soceity Sir Paul Nurse. He had his breakthrough idea whilst sitting there, board out of his brain, making sure that the equipment he was using was running at a safe level. He won a Nobel Prize for the work that came out of that one idea, sitting there as a PhD student. Bored.
To go back to Cleese, he illustrates rather brilliantly how we can manage to tick off our to-do lists whilst also allowing ourselves to generate creative thought. Put simply, we need to give ourselves the time (an hour or two with fixed start and end point) and the space (somewhere where we wont be interupted) to create our own little Oasis of calm away from the storm of daily life.