013 Now Cure Your Creative Block
Circadian rhythms vs pencils and keyboards
Every morning around 6am, I fall out of bed into my threadbare slippers and take my still half-asleep body down to the kitchen. I make a cup of tea, light a candle and snuggle under a warm blanket on my fondly named ‘old peoples’ chair to write in my journal and practice my morning meditation.
This is more a ritual than a habit because if I fail to follow this early routine on the odd occasion, my day feels disjointed somehow.
During this early morning ritual of journalling, the words pour freely onto the page - full of wisdom and insight. Yet when I try to ‘write’ properly at any other time of the day - for this newsletter, at work, or for a blog post - the words fail to show up. They are stuck. It’s like wading through a sea of treacle. I try desperately to reach a distant place in my brain but it is completely inaccessible - except for those early morning sessions.
Why do the words flow so easily during that hour after waking, yet fail me when they seem to matter most? Like writing this newsletter intro. I’ve rewritten it several times, and it still feels wrong. I don’t even know where it’s going. It’s the pressure to perform that stifles me. Oh no, I’m creatively impotent!!
OK, so what do we do when we’re stuck or need an answer? We ask Dr Google of course. So I searched: ”Why do we find it easier to write in the morning?” And it turns out there’s a scientific reason - yay!
The cure to creative or writers block is wonderfully simple.
Write first thing in the morning. Writing will be easier after waking because it’s when our prefrontal cortex is most active. We also have more willpower (a finite resource) that runs out by the end of the day (and leaves you unable to resist the biscuits or that extra glass of wine on offer after 6pm).
However, while creative brain activity is highest immediately after sleep, the analytical parts of our brilliant brain, which are good for editing and proofreading, become more active as the day goes on. It’s all down to our circadian rhythms (those roughly 24-hour cycles of activity controlled by the brain that tell your body when to sleep).
Think of it like this: your creative mind is like your early-rising toddler - raring to go and full of energy. While the analytical mind is more like my teenage son - it needs to sleep in, and wake up more gently. If you’re patient with it (and ignore its grumpy ways), it’ll be ready to party later on in the day.
Aligning with your body’s natural rhythms, whether that’s on a daily basis or seasonal, will make such a difference to a sense of wellbeing too. Win win.
Note: After my meltdown in the middle, I finished writing of this newsletter in the morning ;)
And now on to this weeks Drawing on Mind recommendations and inspiration…
Inspiration to Draw on This Week
As I mentioned last week, I’m taking a more fluid approach to the recommendations I share here. I’m sure like you, my weeks are full of routine and duties so I use this newsletter as another arm to my creative body of work. Mostly I just want to inspire you to learn about yourself and create. If I can do that, my work is done!
Five writing prompts for November
Since we’re on the topic of writing, as serendipity would have it, ‘Five writing prompts for November’ dropped into my inbox courtesy of Steph at Rise & Ground - a wonderful newsletter I’ve discovered for freelancers and businesses in the creative industries. Perfect!
Music To Meditate To
This piece reminds me of early mornings in the summer when it was warm enough to open the back patio doors, wake up with the birds and bees and write alongside the fresh breeze. Great for the Creative Prompt below…
Your Weekly Creative Prompt
Find your rhythm and flow with an exercise known as ‘continuous line drawing’. Draw an object (it could be as simple as your coffee mug) or a self-portrait, but draw without taking your pencil off the paper. Allow your pencil to flow from one part of the object to another regardless of what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Allow new connections to be made and create something totally original and unexpected.
Talk Recommendation: Clive Thompson "How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think"
I regularly return and recommend this talk which outlines what happens in our brains when we write by hand or use a keyboard. It turns out they both have advantages depending on what you are trying to achieve with your writing. (There’s also a fasinating reference to doodling in Clive’s talk which I shall be exploring further in the weeks to come).
And Finally…A Quote to Live By
“When you know and respect your Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong.”
- Benjamin Hoff, Author of the ‘Tao of Pooh’
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