Staying Home from Cafés and Bars Takes Toll on Creativity

unexpected social interactions spark creativity, research says

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Having to avoid restaurants, cafés, and bars is draining our creativity, The Conversation reported. Spontaneous social encounters often help spark inspiration, and with closures of dining establishments during the pandemic, creativity suffers. There are ways to regain it.

Woman hanging up artwork on the wall
With our social interaction spaces in shutdown during the pandemic—like restaurants, bars, and coffee shops—we have few opportunities for spontaneous creativity to spark from public conversation. Photo By Stokkete / Shutterstock

According to The Conversation, when we have to limit social interaction at food and drink establishments, we’re missing more than caffeine and alcohol. “Researchers have shown how creative thinking can be cultivated by simple habits like exercise, sleep, and reading,” the article said. “But another catalyst is unplanned interactions with close friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers.

“With the closure of coffee shops—not to mention places like bars, libraries, gyms, and museums—these opportunities vanish.”

The article said that the Age of Enlightenment was largely brought on by teahouses and coffeehouses in London, and that simply being around people who are working makes us want to work as well. With these opportunities gone, how else can we spark our creative sides?

Motivating and Reclaiming Our Creativity

As it turns out, there are several guiding principles for inducing creativity. One is found simply by living your life and seeing what motivates you.

“Intrinsic motivation is a strong predictor of those who will ultimately show high levels of creativity,” said Dr. Gerard Puccio, professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo for Studies in Creativity. “It doesn’t really matter what intrinsically motivates you; what really matters is finding what intrinsically motivates you. Pursue what you love, and this is where you’ll find your greatest creativity—this is where you’ll find your flow, your peak psychological experiences.”

Dr. Puccio also said we should “reclaim our creativity.” By this, he means that creativity is natural and we often get in the way of our own creativity. We assume we aren’t qualified, we seek others’ approval rather than our own, we demand perfection from ourselves, and so on. Rising up to challenges creatively helps us live creative lives and expand ourselves. We can build better resilience against adversity because we’re used to “thinking outside the box.”

Dreaming Big and Being Assertive

“The next principle is ‘go big or go home,’ just as the X-Gamers say,” Dr. Puccio said. “Remember, creativity is made up of knowledge, imagination, and evaluation. Children have lots of imagination. Adults, however, seem to stop dreaming; they limit their imagination.”

This, he said, is a crucial point. If we want to make a change, the first thing we need to decide is what we want. The more the stretch goal, the further it takes us out of our comfort zone and the more compelling the idea becomes.

He also said that it’s important to be clear and unapologetic about what we want. When a child wants something and is told no, the child insists with more and more gusto. When the parent relents, the child shows their power. When done in a more mature fashion, this assertion and clarity can help drive our creative efforts.

If, at First, You Don’t Succeed…

Dr. Puccio said it helps to create options. “When pursuing a goal in order to achieve it, it’s helpful to have multiple options,” he said. “When we have a problem to solve and we have one option, it doesn’t really give us a choice—it’s either succeed or fail. When we create more choices for ourselves, we maximize our power, as it allows for greater flexibility, and it increases the probability of getting to our end goal.”

Finally, he said, don’t just do something once. Try it again and again. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it makes better. “Remember the 10-year rule,” he said. “It takes 10 years, on average, before great creators have their breakthrough. Be willing to learn from your mistakes; failure is just another way of learning.”

While it may be more difficult to get the creative juices flowing while spending so much time at home, Dr. Puccio’s suggestions may help.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

Dr. Gerard Puccio contributed to this article. Dr. Puccio is a professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo for Studies in Creativity, a unique academic department that offers the world’s first and leading Master of Science in Creativity. Professor Puccio holds a PhD in Organizational Psychology from The University of Manchester in England.