January 31, 2018
Making space for creative ideas to grow
This past year I’ve spent a lot of time paying attention to my own mental patterns. Watching my creative energy and how it all ebbs and flows.
One of my biggest observations is how a creative idea needs a lot of extra space to flourish right at the beginning. It starts as a tiny seed of an idea, and if you make enough space for it in your mind, it will grow to a shocking size pretty quickly. Your brain lights up with possibilities and potentials. Then, you tame it. You narrow your focus and give the idea the resources it needs to become a plan. It settles into the boundaries you assign for it. An idea might not end up being a huge part of your life once it has become a plan. BUT it needs a lot of headspace to burst open in its early stages.
It’s not often that I have that big empty space in my mind for an idea to flourish. Even when I’m by myself (which isn’t very often) my habit is to always have something going and planning. (I promise you I am NOT a type-A personality but I’ve had to learn to be a little bit!) Empty space has to be created intentionally because in my life (and maybe yours) it’s not going to happen on its own. Giving our minds space to process is we grow and change, how we get to the root of problems and find creative solutions, how we let new ideas flourish, and how we realize what things in our lives need to be over and done with.the power of daydreaming creative life business
What’s a non-fancy way of describing this big, blank processing space? Daydreaming. We need to make time in our lives for regular old-fashioned childlike daydreaming. (I could write another blog post about the creative patterns of small children – and I believe daydreaming/free time is very much connected.)
I can see this pattern in my life.
Most of my more creative (and generally good) ideas come at me when I’m in that glorious place of calm and undistracted. For example, every time we travel, the change of scenery and the time on the road gives healthy space for daydreaming. Even when I’m on a shoot, the calmness and empty spaces between conversations really give me the creative energy I need.
The margins between sleep and waking are also full of magic. In that totally free place there’s something like a stream of consciousness. I can solve problems, decipher layers of meaning in past interactions, make intuitive judgements about people and relationships, and conjure up brand new ideas and creative ideas. Ideas and decisions and realizations come at me strong when I’m half-asleep, even when I don’t have the mental or emotional space to carry them. But I admit I haven’t used this powerful time well. Most days, I crash to sleep almost instantly, having stayed up far too late doing non-daydreamy things. Or else I stare at my phone like a zombie, to decompress from the clatter of the day.
Your mind probably processes differently than mine, and maybe your ideal daydreaming situations involve loud music, busy coffee shops, traveling, or something else. Whatever it takes for you, how can we grownups devote time and priority to old-fashioned daydreaming? (Doesn’t it seem fanciful and wasteful?) But if ideas and decisions need room to blossom large before our rational mind gathers them back in, then we should give priority to these empty moments and clear-headed places. Especially if our vocations involve creativity, we probably need more blank space than we think.
My goals going forward
One of my goals this year is to take an outing once a month, where I visit a gallery or park or just some simple lovely place, to put away all my devices/books/headphones. Not long ago, this would have felt like a total waste of time. (I’m still battling that mindset.) But I think this will make some intentional clear space for my brain to explore new ideas and solve problems.
I’m also going to put my phone away across the room some nights (hey, I’m not looking for perfection here) and let myself lay awake for a while. Nothing but my own thoughts and prayers filling my mind.
Removing distractions when I need to focus is something I’m generally pretty good at. If I’m working on my computer I’ll close down my email/messenging apps, turn over my phone, and probably turn off the music. That’s more for working on a specific project at-hand, but these are good tactics for intentional daydreamers too. 🙂
More potential times to opt-in to daydreaming
*in the drive-thru line, instead of grabbing your phone for 5 minutes
*in the bathtub/shower, instead of listening to a podcast
*as you lay awake in bed, rather than scrolling your phone
*if you ever have the luxury of being driven around in a quiet car – just stare out the window and think
*while you’re making food – if this is ever a quiet time for you
Really, you can harness this power any time you have quiet and calm. It’s crazy how much discipline this can take! Turn off the music or the podcast…close the laptop…set your phone in another room…write down anything that’s been bothering you so you don’t forget.
When do you have your ideas? When do the creative lights seem to really spark in your mind? Do you intentionally make space for those things to happen? What do you do when your creative ideas arrive during times of chaos and fullness?