When I first started writing, I quickly noticed that my best material didn’t happen while I was at the keyboard.
The best stuff usually came to me while I was otherwise occupied with everyday tasks, often appearing mysteriously as if conjured from the ether or channeled from an alternate reality.
My “letter from the editor” would pretty much write itself during my walk home from work. The outline for my next article would take shape while I was in the shower. A kick-ass blog title would pop into my head as I scrubbed the dinner dishes.
The trick was to give myself enough time for these mind-less moments, to mind less what I was thinking, give free reign to my thoughts, give freely to association and stream of consciousness. (I think I just did some of that right there.)
I still come up with my most fruitful ideas and juiciest turns of phrase while I’m doing things other than actually working.
I wanted to know – what is this thing called ‘creative space’?
Of course, the moment I set this question to brewing, I also set in motion a kind of Kevin Bacon effect. Six degrees of variation on the theme “claiming space in a world of chronic busy-ness” are suddenly everywhere I turn.
I can’t flip on the radio, open a magazine, or check my inbox without hearing about the benefits of taking regular technology vacations. The FOMO (Yes, Folks, that’s Fear Of Missing Out – so pervasive there’s an acronym for it) that drives us to constantly mainline our social media. The decline of adaptability and creativity in our collectively overscheduled kids. Obviously these issues are seriously stirring the pop culture pot.
But this cascade of connected ideas would never have begun if I hadn’t carved out a “creative space” corner in my mind in the first place.
In her illuminating (and just really cool) video, Shlain explains why. She calls it the “Default Mode Network” – a network of neurons that we can only access when we’re on autopilot (i.e., walking, doing chores, daydreaming). In this mode, we suddenly “see connections where we didn’t see connections before.”
Shlain’s video presents the case for dreaming while providing plenty of thought-nuggets to chew on and explore further. I could tell you more, but really you should just take the six minutes and see it for yourself. I promise you’ll never again feel guilty about taking a brain break.
So now I hope you reclassify dreaming and mind-less-ness as critical parts of the creative process. Be generous with your vacations – technological and otherwise. Sit still. Stop. Notice. Smell. Taste. Feel. Listen.
Let your mind wander. It knows what it’s doing, even if it appears suspiciously to be shirking its duties. In reality, it’s forging paths and making connections and busting its buttocks to create something new, something that didn’t exist a nanosecond ago.
Plus, think of the extra brownie points you’ll get for doing the dishes tonight.