Put On a Thinking Cap to Help Increase Creativity

The phrase “thinking cap” or “considering cap” goes back at least 400 years, probably much longer since by the time it first appeared in print, the phrase needed no definition. Most people assume the cap has always been metaphoric, but donning a real cap can help focus one’s thoughts.

In an odd twist, “dunce cap,” which has become synonymous with stupidity and foolishness, started out as a thinking cap. John Duns Scotus, a master philosopher born in 1266 in Duns, Scotland, believed that wearing a high conical cap helped funnel knowledge to the brain. (He’d noted that wizards wore them.) In the 1600’s, when his philosophies were ridiculed as foolish and obtuse, the dunce cap became known not as thinking cap but a fool’s cap.

Scientists today have created a high-tech thinking cap that stimulates the brain and seems to increase creativity, but you don’t need hi-tech devices. If you are dealing with writer’s block, for example, you can use colored caps.

How color vision actually works is still a mystery, but there is no mystery about the profound effect color has on human physiology. Red tends to raise blood pressure, increase pulse rate, and excite brain waves. Blue tends to have the reverse effect, and green tends to be neutral.

So, if you wish to increase your creativity, try a little color therapy. It can’t hurt; at the very least it will give you something besides your computer screen or those same old walls to stare at. And it has the benefit of being exceedingly simple. All you have to do is choose your color from the following list, wear it, hang it on the wall, find a knickknack or a bouquet of flowers that color to put on your desk, then focus on it.

Purple will boost your creativity, and help stimulate your intuitive abilities.

Yellow can help you feel optimistic if your blockage is making you anxious and depressed. It can also induce enlightenment, which is what you are looking for.

Dark blue encourages meditative thinking, so it’s especially helpful if are having difficulty focusing.

Green helps promote harmony if your inability to write is making you irritable.

Red will energize you if you’re too tired to think.

Even if the color therapy doesn’t bring about the effect you wish, playing around with all those colors will give your mind a rest from writing, and perhaps when you return to your keyboard, the problem will have resolved itself.

A couple of other suggestions to cap off this article: you can give your character a thinking cap, such as Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap, which might help you refocus on your story.

Or you can forget writing altogether, put on any hat, go for a walk and let your thoughts wander — that’s what I do.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

5 Responses to “Put On a Thinking Cap to Help Increase Creativity”

  1. shadowoperator Says:

    I’d never have thought there was any scientific background to color therapy, but yes, now you mention it, colors do seem to make a difference to my mood and capabilities.

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I did not know that color could have that sort of effect. Thanks Pat!

  3. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    interesting about the wizard’s cap. The 1600s was the age of scientific enlightenment and there was a general move away from old superstitions toward what we consider to be science. Mind you alchemy was still around but there was this push to prove scientific discovery through being able to repeat a successful experiment. Crude telescopes were being used to study the moon for the first time and it wasn’t perfect the way the Church of the day would have it be.

    The paper size known as foolscap actually came from the notion that you could make a fool’s cap out of it. I just thought I’d throw that in.

    Red light in an otherwise darkened room can somehow help with skin cancer. I really don’t understand how.

    Purple was once considered the forbidden color that was for the gods and demi-gods. To wear purple was to put yourself on the same par with the gods which was not a very good thing to do. Over time this idea got watered down to where it was okay for popes, emperors, kings and queen to wear purple. Now it is open for anyone to wear.

    Also it was not considered a very good idea to name a ship after the god of the sea on account of the fact that he might think that you are taking liberties with him. The name of the novel then the movie, The Poseidon Adventure, was based on this notion.

  4. Carol Says:

    Although I know about the psychology of colour (and definitely agree with it), I had no idea of the word origins you mention. Fascinating stuff! Now, if I could just convince my DH to repaint my office *again*, my words might become more prolific. 🙂

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