A popular creativity hack, Scott Adams (Dilbert) notes, is to use distractions that don’t distract — by working in a coffee shop, or taking a walk, a drive, or a shower:
My armchair guess about what is going on with the brain distractions is that we evolved to keep some important part of the brain on high alert for danger, food, and mating opportunities. If you distract that part of the brain with driving, walking, showering, and background noise it loosens its hold on the creative processing part of your brain.
This supports my hypothesis that creativity is something that happens naturally so long as your brain is not actively suppressing it for some sort of survival advantage. That makes sense because creative thinking usually isn’t helpful in immediately dangerous situations. If we were cave dwellers I would be the one that didn’t see the mastodon stampede heading my way because I was daydreaming and inventing new stone tools in my head. Sometimes you don’t need creative ideas so much as you just need to run.
Putting it in simpler terms, creativity is a mental luxury that your brain will not allow until it feels safe or until the watchdog part of your brain gets busy handling some routine task such as driving the car.