In my more recent perusings of the Internet, I’ve come across several discussions of the impact of caffeine on a person’s creativity, more specifically, the impact of coffee on a person’s creativity. As a writer/blogger who consumes a generous amount of caffeine on a regular basis, I was curious to see what people had to say on the matter. Having learned a fair amount about both my brain and my beloved beverage, I’ve come to my own conclusion about coffee and creativity, but we’ll get to that in a little bit. First, let’s get into the science behind it.
Our bodies contain a substance called adenosine, a chemical that helps to inhibit the release of chemicals into the brain. In doing so, it reduces our energy levels - which makes us feel tired. How does caffeine fit into this equation? Well, when we consume caffeine, it passes through our blood-brain barrier and proceeds to block the receptors in our brain that allow the adenosine to do its job. The result is that we feel less tired, concentrate better, and can keep working!
Now, if you’re wondering how your creativity factors into this equation, here’s where things get interesting. A recent study published in Psychological Science detailed the results of an experiment by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara suggests that when faced with the task of solving a problem creatively, people generally came up with more unique answers when their minds had been allowed to wander. This makes sense if you think about it. Generally, creativity involves somebody combining ideas in unique way, thinking outside of the box as some like to put it.
So, here’s where problems start to crop up. If letting your mind wander is helpful when you’re trying to be creative, what happens when your focus and concentration are enhanced by caffeine? Well, it’s understandable that some believe that it would, in fact, hinder your creativity, but I think it’s really a matter of your creative process that needs to be considered. While it may be useful to let our minds wander for a bit for the sake of coming up with some unique ideas, being able to focus on a task can improve the quality and efficiency of your work. I suppose you could wait until an idea inspires you, and then guzzle down some coffee and get cracking, but I don’t necessarily think that creativity has to be spontaneous. Brainstorming and outlining lend structure to creative endeavors, and when you’re ready to go, grab some coffee and get to work. At the end of the day, I’d tell you not to ditch the coffee. After all, how much work do you think you could really get done without it?