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Make Time For Creative Thinking

flower clockWhen I started writing in a truly serious, committed way, I was on maternity leave following the birth of my son. I stayed home with him for two years, and during that time, my creative spirit blossomed. I didn’t have hours and hours to write (naptimes were my friends) but I did have time and space to think. Everything takes time when you have a small child. Moments stretch long, and single activities can absorb an entire morning. During those quiet times, watching my son kick at the activity mat, taking him for a walk in the stroller, or preparing his food, my mind was able to wander. In fact, it almost had to wander, because spending most of your time with a child with limited communication skills can be stultifying. While I was going about my day, my brain was stewing in creative thoughts: what the angle on my next blog post should be, how to flesh out a minor character in my novel, the best way to phrase the first sentence of my query letter. And then, when I sat down to write, I was already ready. My fingers flowed. There were still good days and bad days (the bad days were usually following a wakeful night with my son) but overall, it was a very productive time.

Now I’m back to work full-time and juggling a teaching job with parenting duties. I’m just as committed to writing, and I schedule time every day to devote to my projects. But I often find it more difficult to sit down and be inspired, because my head is now crowded with lesson plans, parent phone calls and instrument repairs. I’ve learned that it’s not enough to schedule time for the writing itself; I also have to schedule time to let my mind wander: to ponder my work, and get into a creative mindset.

This is a lot harder than planning the actual writing time, not in the least because “thinking” really looks like “doing nothing” to other people- and even sometimes to me. And frankly, I don’t have a lot of time to “do nothing” in the first place. So I started looking for tasks that would allow my mind to wander. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Taking a walk outside (somehow, the treadmill doesn’t lend itself to thinking… maybe it’s the “going nowhere” aspect).

2. Driving

3. Washing dishes

4. Folding laundry

5. Rocking my son to sleep

At first, it was hard to do most of these things without the accompaniment of music, audiobooks or podcasts. I wasn’t used to driving in silence, for example; even after some practice it’s sometimes hard to keep myself from turning on the radio within the first few minutes. But when I do give myself the gift of quiet time, a chance to explore my own mind, great things happen. My writing feels more inspired again, and I’m working faster than ever before.

Do you ever feel like writing time alone is not enough? How do you get yourself into a creative mindset?

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Note: The very hour I published this post, I saw a post with eerily similar content on the Writer’s Digest website. It was published some time ago, but promoted recently. Chuck Sambuchino and I must be sharing a brain this week!

3 Responses to “Make Time For Creative Thinking”

  1. Diana Klein says:

    A good reminder. Thanks!

  2. Sarah says:

    I find that doing chores does not help me at all. Maybe it settles my mind because it’s done, but mundane tasks are my kryptonite. Walking, however, is nearly magic! Sometimes going to a new cafe or on a simple little adventure shakes me out of my complacency.

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