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Getting Stuck

I try to write every day. That means, I get stuck at-least-a-little every day. Two or three times a day, to be honest. Sometimes, it’s briefly, and on relatively small issues, like looking for a word or phrase, a way to express an idea in a more original, clear or descriptive way. Other times, it’s looking for a new solution to a bigger problem, like how to structure a particular piece, or what to include, where to find new material or information. Truth is, almost any kind of problem solving, planning, personal exploration or life management requires creative thinking. But for the sake of clarity here, let’s focus on the writing.

Where do I do most of my writing? Seated at my desk, mano a mano with the blank page.

What is my least creative position in the universe? Seated at my desk, mano a mano with the blank page.

Where’s the disconnect? Seated at my desk, mano a mano with the blank page.

Dancing with your muse

Creativity is a temperamental muse. She likes to be wooed and courted. She responds to the right touch. She likes to be treated well. Timing is everything.  How often do you dance with your muse?

I’ve tried many ways to woo my muse. One of the most effective is through an alternating dance of involvement and avoidance. My muse likes my company – in small doses.

The rhythm that works is to focus intensely on a particular problem, then back off, then dive back in to the work, then back off. The breakthrough may come at any moment–in the involvement phase, or in an avoidance phase, or even in transition, but my sense is that at least 75% of my creative breakthroughs come when I’ve backed off from the problem and am letting my mind and my soul ruminate without my brain’s  interference.

One of the best ways to back off, I’ve discovered, is through movement. Here are some of my favorites, ones that I’ve heard others testify for as well.

  •      Go for a walk. With a particular creative problem in mind, head out to some place you like. Don’t focus too much on the problem, but let it percolate in the back of your mind.
  •      Go for a drive. Sometimes the movement of the car, the rhythm of a drive, can inspire your muse to dance, and voilá, a fine new idea emerges.
  •      Swing in the playground. Being around children, and playing, are great catalysts for creativity.
  •      Take a shower. Water flowing over the body awakens the soul. Ideas sprout.
  •      Stretch. Take frequent breaks. Sitting in one place for more than an hour or two, at the most, is generally not conducive to creative thinking. Get up, move about, attend to some other task for a while.
  •      Be a stand up writer. Have you tried it?  Standing up is very different from sitting down, if you dan’t noticed.Set up a makeshift desk, or buy one. Vari-desk.
  •    Nature is aways a great backdrop for creative thinking.  A two hour hike can clear out the cobwebs like nothing else. For bigger problems, go backpacking.
  •     Dance, swim, run, work out at the gym, play golf … what’s your pleasure?  Go where you like, and your muse will follow.

The particular form of movement you choose is up to you and your muse. Talk it over. It may take patience, or coaxing. Don’t rush her. Your muse will be there for you if you treat her right.

The mindset that works best for many with all of these methods is to have a specific creative task in mind. Think about it, write about it, talk about it, meditate on it, and then let it go, let it simmer in the pot as you pursue your favorite form of movement. Treat her well, and it’s much more likely your muse will be there for you.

If you have particular places or ways of stimulating your creative flow, or questions about it, I’d love to hear from you. How do you dance with your muse?