Last post, I examined the benefits of keeping a journal and how it can fuel inspiration when your regular writing methods just aren’t working for you, or are giving you crumby or predictable results. If you find it difficult to journal, or are just starting out, there are many other methods you can use to awaken the creative spark. Here’s another to help you get your creative juices flowing.
Routine is an important part of maintaining your productivity. But sometimes that routine becomes the very problem that is stopping you from getting fresh insight.
I used to have a routine where I’d pick up my guitar, get a progression going and start formulating a melody in my head. I’d record the chords and hum the tune that had emerged, and then I’d get up and start doing menial tasks like tidying the house, sweeping, or washing the dishes while I was singing gibberish and random words, letting the magic of free association go to work in my head. I’d get to a point where an idea would stand out. I knew this was THE line, or at least a great begging to uncovering the theme that the song I was going to write was about, so I’d drop everything and pick up my pen, jot down the line, and record it on my phone’s voice memo app. This would often start an avalanche of ideas, but when they dried up, I’d put my guitar and pen down and return to my housework until inspiration struck again. This worked well, for about a year, but pretty soon the ideas were taking longer and longer to form.
Routine is a double-edged sword. It’s great for getting work out there, but it can also kill the spontaneity that gives rise to some of the best ideas. It was as though my creativity had come to loath what was once an exciting routine. That drug just didn’t work anymore and since I’d milked it for all it was worth, I had to go searching for some other way of finding the imaginative spark. I needed a fresh approach.
A change of scene
The easiest thing to do, in these circumstances, is go for a walk. Take your notebook, your voice recorder and your clogged creativity on an adventure and see what happens. Walking is something primal and innate. The most natural rhythm we know, next to our own heartbeat, is the steady lope of legs as we walk along. Movement lets our worried mind relax so that our senses can take in the world around us, spark our curiosity and allow our mind to make familiar, as well as novel, connections.
Make sure you are free of those easy distractions, like ear-buds, the urge to check emails and social media updates. Turn your notifications off, or put your phone on silent if those incessant pings have too great a hold on your attention. Try not to have any expectations. Let your natural curiosity kick in – start scanning your surroundings for inspiration.
Back when the environment was the source of our survival and the harbinger of our horrors, we had to be alert to all that was around us, so we’d be ready to eat or run or both. For this reason we are hardwired to be alert when we are out walking, and that alertness is the thing that will give us ideas. Scraps of bird song; the whine of a garbage truck; the scraps of conversation from the people you pass by; the melodic hallucinations that plague us allow inspiration to emerge and bring forth new ideas. When something pops into your mind, stop and write it down. You might find a place that particularly excites your imagination. Bring your guitar, or your laptop and headphones if you use apps to compose. Soak in the sights and sounds around you, free up your imagination, and keep writing.