Caffeine—the culprit that comes in many forms. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate—we all have a preference on which cup provides the most pleasant buzz.
But does that buzz of caffeine fuel creativity? Or crush it?
Caffeine must do something for creativity. So many creatives gather in cafes to sip and work on their work-in-progress. If caffeine didn’t help with creativity, wouldn’t creators stay at home and crank out their projects with a glass of juice?
So, what role does caffeine play in the creative process? And how does caffeine fuel creativity?
This is Your Brain on Caffeine
On a caffeine-less day (or hour), the firing neurons in your active brain produce a byproduct called adenosine. When adenosine levels get too high, your body calls for a time-out from activity and cues the drowsy feelings.
When your body accepts the gift of caffeine into your system, it mistakes caffeine for adenosine because of its similar compound structure. This mistake allows for caffeine to bind to your adenosine receptors first, meaning nerve activity in your brain isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
That’s why we feel more awake. And more focused. And completely invincible.
Your liver then metabolizes caffeine, breaking it down into three molecular compounds:
Don’t worry. There won’t be a pop quiz.
Theobromine increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your brain. That’s why you feel more clearheaded when caffeine is in your system.
Paraxanthine enhances your body’s athletic performance by increasing the rate of fat breakdown to power muscle activity. That’s why you feel livelier (and your hand doesn’t cramp up) after a cup of caffeine.
Theophylline increases your heart rate. That’s why you feel more alert and more focused once the caffeine buzz kicks in.
Caffeine may fuel focus, energy and clearheadedness. But does caffeine fuel creativity?
How Caffeine Shuts Down Creativity
Creativity is the activity of connecting ideas together to create new ideas. In order to connect ideas together, you have to let your mind wander. You have to step away from the problem and go do something else. You have to seclude yourself within your own thoughts so that these connections can be made.
Can caffeine fuel creativity and bring forth new ideas into the world? Highly unlikely.
Caffeine shuts down creativity as it turns up the focus in your brain. Mind wandering can’t happen when all your cranked-up energy is bent on getting something done right here, right now.
How can you explore the connection between unlike thoughts when caffeine jolts your brain into a hyper-fixated state on one idea?
Creativity doesn’t stand a chance after you drink a caffeinated beverage. The nurturing environment where creativity thrives dissipates the moment caffeine walks through the door.
If this is true, why do so many creative people interweave a coffee or tea ritual into their daily routine? Does caffeine play a different role in the creative process?
How Caffeine Fuels Creativity
To understand how caffeine fuels creativity, you have to look at the creative process differently. In fact, you have to look at the creative process as a process.
When you think of creativity, what words pop into your head? Inspiration? Imagination? Invention?
That’s only the start of the story.
Creativity is a journey of unknown exploration, an adventurous voyage that carries you across the waves of your mind from thought to thought until you reach the shores of that beautiful epiphany.
But the journey doesn’t end there. Discovering that aha-moment is only part of the creative process. Because creative ideas that remain in your mind are just that—ideas.
Your creative ideas cannot make an impact if they only live in your head. They have to manifest into the physical world, be it as a poem, a painting or a project.
That’s where the creative process come in. Once the creative idea is discovered, it’s now time to transform that creative epiphany from thought to action.
Caffeine fuels creativity by motivating you to sit down and stay focused on making this happen. With caffeine in your system, you are more driven to complete the creation aspect of the creative process. Because of this, you produce results and your creativity enters into existence.
That’s why so many creative people drink caffeine. It’s not to discover a new idea but to push that idea into reality. Step by step, sip after sip.