The Overlooked Key to Creativity
July 25, 2017
Note From Rochelle
I had an awesome weekend—mainly because I did something unusual for me: I set aside work and took time to play! I visited multiple art galleries during Milwaukee’s Gallery Night and Day, read a thriller, made art, and napped. Today, I feel energized and ready to write!
How about you? If you need encouragement to let go of your schedule and play, today’s tip—from my forthcoming book of quests—will help you do just that.
The Secret Key to Creativity
by Rochelle Melander
Several weeks ago, I set aside a Saturday to work on my business plan. I packed up my computer, calendar, and books and headed to the library. I spent the next two hours staring at my lists, mind maps, book outlines, and business goals. I dug into dozens of projects and felt…exhausted. I left the library feeling discouraged. My inner critic launched into her usual rant: you don’t work hard enough.
When I spoke to a friend about it, she had a helpful insight: Maybe you don’t need to keep busting your butt. Maybe you need a break.
Lately, I’ve become aware of how little time I have to simply be idle. It’s a rare moment when I’m not working, writing, talking, texting, teaching, coaching, caring, cooking, or cleaning. And when I do have a free moment, I tend to use it to check one of my digital devices. I’m not alone. Consider these stats:
+The average user checks their phone 110 times a day.
+Americans spend 16 minutes of every hour on social networks.
+Americans spend 11 hours a day with digital media
I’ve written repeatedly about how writers need idle time to develop their ideas. Madeleine L’Engle, writing in the late 70s before the onset of the digital life, said it like this:
When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. (Walking on Water, p. 13)
At a writing conference, I heard Sara Paretsky talk about how her best books emerged from fallow periods, when she had the time to listen for the voices of her characters.
Recent research backs up this anecdotal evidence. In a 2009 study led by Professor Kalina Christoff, University of British Columbia Dept. of Psychology, researchers discovered that when our minds wander, two parts of our brain get activated: our default network (the part associated with routine mental activity) and our executive network (the part linked to complex problem-solving). Christoff and her team concluded that when we get stumped by our work, it might be helpful to focus on simple, routine tasks and let our minds wander.
Today’s quest will help you do just that: be idle.
If you’re struggling to find new ideas, develop your story, explore a character’s voice, describe a setting, or simply get words down on paper, you might need idle time. Set aside at least an hour for this quest. Several hours could be better.
Turn off your devices (scary but you can do it!) and engage in a mindless task. Here are some ideas.
+Ride in a car, train or bus
Afterwards, reflect on how the quest went—were you able to daydream? (If so, record your daydreams!) Did you have enough time? Was the task you chose sufficiently mindless to allow you time to dream? What would you tweak for your next daydreaming session?
Game Play Tips
+Daydreaming takes practice! Repeat this quest as often as needed to connect with your inner visions.
+Watch out for your inner critics—they tend to attack when our minds are idle.
+This quest is really a power up—something you can do whenever you get stuck to strengthen your writing muscles! Woot!
Share your tips for being idle and playing!
About the author
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media.
Great post, Rochelle! This fits perfectly with our fall conference theme, EXPERIMENT AND PLAY! Thanks for sharing your wise way forward, grasshopper!