OCD and Creativity: How to Weaponize Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors to Drive You Towards Success

10 January 2017 on . 4 minutes to read

OCD vs Creativity

Scott Adams recently penned an article where he asks some questions regarding a link between OCD and creativity. This quote is from that article, “People with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) have thoughts that they can’t get out of their heads. But creativity is the opposite of obsessing over a single idea, at least the way I experience it.”

When I read that, it struck a chord with me, because that’s exactly the way my mind operates. Thoughts enter, and if I don’t specifically eject those thoughts, they’ll grow and grow and grow until it becomes an obsession. These thoughts could be anything from the way that the efficiency of a process could be improved by a miniscule amount to grand plans that would take lifetimes of man-hours to complete. Any thought, idea or plan if given enough time in my head will essentially become an obsession.

This used to be a major hangup for me, as obsessions would hinder both creativity and productivity. In essence, creativity is simply cycling through unique thoughts. The more rapidly you can cycle, the more creative you are. OCD gets in the way since obsession blocks the creation of new ideas. Adams states just as much in that article. He goes on to ask this: “…perhaps it would be more helpful to try to solve a creative problem that automatically activates the imagination circuitry of your brain. If I’m right, trying to solve a creative problem would be more effective as a distraction for OCD sufferers than any other kind of mental distraction.”

It was great to see this in writing, as that’s close to what I’ve done over the last year in order to be both more creative and productive. I call it Always Be Constructing. To answer Scott’s question about the effectiveness of using creativity to bypass OCD, I’ll counter with another question, and then answer.

Weaponized OCD or Inject Creativity?

What would be better, to perform a little mental jiu jitsu and redirect your innate OCD, or bypass it by injecting creativity into your mind?

  • Scott Adams says: “… I wonder if OCD sufferers could sometimes hack their brains by using creativity to crowd out the OCD.”
  • Nathaniel Rowe says: “OCD is part of my mental process: Weaponize it for my own purposes.”

I’ve done this with the following 3 options, and only these 3 options when I get an idea in my head that keeps growing (which is quite often):

  • Build It
  • Save it for later by writing it down somewhere (building my list of ideas for later)
  • Consciously decide it’s not worth my time, and discard it

Nowhere in there do I simply sit on it and let it take over my life and crowd out other things. I either use my obsession to bring a plan to fruition, stash it in my “good ideas” box if it has merit, or literally envision myself throwing it out the window, off a cliff or some other imagery to eject it from my head. It works.

Of note is what I’ve been doing and just described shares a lot with what Scott suggests. He’s a damned smart guy, and if you think about the following excerpt, provides a framework which fits my specific actions I take to be more creative and productive.

“Could it be that OCD sufferers use their imaginations more often than others because doing so is an escape from the OCD?”

Using my imagination to escape from OCD… sounds a lot like envisioning myself removing useless clutter from my mind.

Wrap

I’ve been sitting on this post idea for the last month, but thanks to the Dilbert Blog, I got it up and running, along with the added bonus of being able to compare a couple thoughts to another very prolific writer.

Disclaimer

Note: I’ve never been diagnosed with OCD, but my mental patterns match the description of it, though probably not to the extreme that some people have it. This is article is a thought experiment and entirely anecdotal, not medical advice.

How to Win Big

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is a fantastic book. I first read it about 2 years ago, and it offers a lot of insight on various topics, along with the trademark Dilbert humor. Be smart like me and read it.


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