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Mindlessness And Creativity

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ”
— Agatha Christie

“Writing is a physical as well as psychological act.  Many of our most marvelous writers have been great walkers.  There is something about the rhythm of the walk.  There is a musicality in motion that spills onto the page.”                                                                                       — Julia Cameron

_DSC0712Ever wonder how your best ideas arrive while you are in the shower, jogging, or washing dishes?  There’s a scientific explanation lodged in your brain.

Researchers have discovered that a mindless, undemanding task increases creativity.  It creates change in the frontal lobe, like a temporary sleep mode (maybe that’s why so many writers describe writing flow as a sort of hypnosis or trance).  In addition to mindless tasks, new and unexpected experiences can also boost your creativity.  Something as simple as changing your routines changes your brain, forcing new connections.

I can certainly say it bears out in my own writing process.  I think of it as keeping the left brain busy so the right brain can get some work done.

If you are stuck for ideas or don’t know where your story goes next, take a walk.  You’ll join a long lineage of enduring authors who were great walkers, swimmers, or tennis players.  Give your body and your focus to something else while your writer’s mind gets to work.

For me, the answer is housework or free-motion quilting, or sorting piles of colored beads.  I know writers who walk or run, mow the lawn, or pull weeds, bake, exercise, swim, take a shower, vacuum, and one who swings on her kids’ play tower.  Each of these activities involves repetition, physical sensation, and movement.  Getting into your body frees your mind.

I hope my husband doesn’t read this.  He’ll stop helping with chores “for the sake of my muse.”

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