Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. – William Plomer
Some people seek inspiration through physical activity, going for a walk, visiting a place they have never been before, or camping out in a cemetery. But with your mind, you can have the whole universe as your plaything. Here are three ways you can use the immense power of your mind to help fill your creative well.
1. Keep a record of your dreams
Through time, numerous cultures have put an emphasis on the power of dreams in relation to creativity¹.This certainly works for me. When I dream, it is a 4K, full colour, surround sound experience. I am either a fly on the wall or I am in the middle of it. I almost always dream in stories. I hate it if I get woken up in the middle of one because I want to know how it will end. I keep my phone close by and type up a quick memo file or dictate it when I wake up after a particularly good dream even if it is 3am. When I am hunting about for a story idea I’ll go through my dreams to see if something grabs me. By consistently recording your dreams, you are training your conscious mind to remember what your subconscious experienced. Over time you may find your dreams become more vivid, you are able to remember them more easily, or you may even start to lucid dream².The good thing about this technique is it gets better the longer you do it, particularly if you lucid dream. If you are interested in starting a dream journal, www.dreamstudies.org has lots of useful information to start you off.
This might sound counterproductive since meditation is supposed to empty your mind of thought. It does, but it also fills your mind with images. The concept of creativity and meditation have long been linked³. When I meditate, I most often see faces behind my eyes, some of them are quite distinctive. After a meditation session, I will make notes of what I have seen. Sometimes I will meditate myself into an out of body experience. In these instances, I often end up on some strange adventure. I will feel myself float up to the ceiling and either slip through a crack or fly out my window. I will go to strange places, see wondrous things like underwater cities, I might travel through the universe or swim through the earth. At the conclusion of the meditation session, I’ll make a record of my experiences and revisit them when hunting for story inspiration. If you have never meditated before, there are numerous guided meditation sessions available on YouTube, just type guided meditation into the search bar and pick one with a voice that doesn’t annoy you.
3. Be mindful
Mindfulness has been a hot topic in mental wellbeing for quite some time⁴. It essentially means focusing your awareness on the here and now so you become highly tuned to the present moment. Most people don’t think about walking across a room, they just do it. But if you walk across a room mindfully you will become aware of dozens of tiny things you would not normally think about; the feel of carpet beneath your feet, the dust motes in a sunbeam through a window, the spot on your glasses right in the middle of your vision. I learned it through a pain management course, but it had a useful side effect of clearing my thoughts to let inspiration flow. It made me hyper-aware of things I was doing, how I did them and the sensory input I was receiving. It isn’t hard to project that type of thought process onto a character, a writer already does the hard part, they already put themselves in the character’s head.
Mindfulness is particularly useful if you have difficulty with show don’t tell. It turns she walked into the room into her left stiletto chafed her hammertoe with each leggy stride over the waxed floor. Maybe not the best example off the top of my head, but you get what I mean. The latter gives you a clear sense of the character, an insight into what she might be feeling, her personality, and even an idea of the place, while she walked into the room gives nothing.
If you are interested in giving mindfulness a go, www.mindful.org is a good place to start.
So there you have it, three ways to boost your creativity without stepping foot outside your head. Do you already do some of these things? Let us know in the comments.
Note: I’m not affiliated with any of the websites or organisations referenced in this post. I’ve referenced them purely because they include useful information for educational purposes, as do many other places. Including them is not an endorsement. All images are CC0 from Pixabay.
¹ Glaskin, K. (2011). Dreams, memory, and the ancestors: Creativity, culture, and the science of sleep. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 17(1), 44-62. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23011570
Graham, L. (1999). Dreams. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology,9(1/2), p.63. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43102427
Ben-Amos, P. (1980). Patron-Artist Interactions in Africa. African Arts, 13(3), p.57. doi:10.2307/3335703
McCurdy, H. (1979). Artistic Creation in Dreams. The Georgia Review, 33(1), 195-207. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41397701
Lipset, D. (2009). A Melanesian Pygmalion: Masculine Creativity and Symbolic Castration in a Postcolonial Backwater. Ethos,37(1), 50-77. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20486599
² Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D., Johnson, M., & Schredl, M. (2014). The Phenomenology of Lucid Dreaming: An Online Survey. The American Journal of Psychology, 127(2), p.201. doi:10.5406/amerjpsyc.127.2.0191
Flanagan, O. (1995). Deconstructing Dreams: The Spandrels of Sleep. The Journal of Philosophy, 92(1), 5-27. doi:10.2307/2940806
³ Moffett, J. (1982). Writing, Inner Speech, and Meditation. College English, 44(3), 231-246. doi:10.2307/377011
Levine, P. (1972). Transcendental Meditation and the Science of Creative Intelligence. The Phi Delta Kappan, 54(4), 231-235. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20373468
⁴ Brown, K., Ryan, R., & Creswell, J. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical Foundations and Evidence for Its Salutary Effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18(4), 211-237. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20447389