The coffee/creativity correlation

Maya Angelou was generous to share her wealth of wisdom with us during her time on this earth. She really did us a favor when she gave us the following:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” 

Anyone in pursuit of a creative life can find comfort in these words. Trying to be creative sometimes feels like you’re a dog chasing its own tail – often you can’t tell if your efforts are getting you anywhere. “How do you measure creativity?” is the existential question we all want an answer to. But Angelou reminds us that simply the act of creating sparks new ideas.

I agree wholeheartedly with Angelou’s words here – but I’d like to make a small addendum. I think it should read as such:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more [creativity] you use (and the more coffee you drink), the more you have.”

Now I’m not going to pretend to know even an ounce of science. But according to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (which is a real thing), caffeine acts as a substitute for a chemical called adenosine, which basically helps your neurons better connect to transmitters or something like that. Caffeine is better than adenosine at this, so your neurons stay connected better.

Implications for creativity are such:  Stronger and longer lasting signals between neurotransmitters in the brain means you’re more likely to make connections between pre-existing ideas (which is basically what creativity is).

I’m always sure to brew myself a cup before sitting down to paint, or even read. It’s a routine, and that cup of coffee lets my brain know that it’s time to power up, think and look alive. Having my coffee in a mug adjacent to my paint brushes is important to giving my brain in the right place before I start. Coffee is one of my greatest simple pleasures in life, so a cup of coffee goes a long way in making me feel in the moment and ready to create.


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