The smell of coffee is in the air. I watch people swarm outside in the crisp cold air through the wall like glass window. A cappuccino sits to my right, a pencil and pad to my left. Slowly the beats electronic music filter through my ears, and the drums of my mind begin to beat. Like a train, the engine revs, and thoughts kick into gear. An hour later, the coffee is gone, and the black sheet of paper is covered in thoughts.
What is a creativity habitat? A year ago, I took a class where we discussed what it meant to be creative and were tasked with figuring out where we individually felt the most creative. A year ago, I said that I felt the most creative surrounded by creative people with a ping pong table and coffee. Not much has changed. This year I have the unique opportunity to observe what others consider to be a creative habitat as the TA for the same class. Unlike when I was in the class, it seems that nature is everyone’s favorite place to be creative. Whether it be Central Park in NYC, a gazebo, or a treehouse, somehow nature sparks ideas within us. Some students challenged the entire concept and considered that any environment is creative as long as you yourself have ideas.
After watching, listening, and thinking about what others thought to be their creative habitat, I did some reflection. I think some people are naturally more creative; however, I am not one of those people. I need the stimulus, and the chaos to generate ideas and to stimulate thought. I need the myriad different faces that people exhibit in their daily routines to spark thoughts. Many people feel that within their own skins they are the most creative. If they are comfortable, than and only than will then be creative. But, I believe that my resting state is one of analytical conservative thinking. Without a break, or some sort of jolt, I would do no better than a Wall Street Trader at a design firm. It is just too comfortable for me to think analytically. After all, CS is all about being analytical. Tracing down bugs, analytical. Writing code, analytical. Organizing APIs, analytical. CS is not a very creative field in the same sense that math is not a very creative field. This is where the coffee becomes essential. The coffee is a rude awakening, a jolt of adrenaline that fuels the body to think at a pace faster than before. That figurative extra step in mental capacity leads to a quickness of thought that doesn’t allow for conservativeness or analysis of pros and cons. It just does. And when I just do I get unpredictable results. With unpredictability comes creativity.
Why does it have to be inside a coffee shop? A coffee shop is filled with interesting conversations. People seem to forget in coffee shops that there are other people around them, and often talk about personal or embarrassing stories. These stories are like random number generators and help reseed the creative process at new interesting points. They provide a mechanism for thinking about disparate thoughts, and allow for random connections. That is something that you just can’t get at home with your morning cup of joe.