The 90 Minute Editing Cycle
This writing tip was offered by Julia Anderson, a hypnotherapist. I was stunned at how well it describes my writing process, and it accounts for things I experience all the time without knowing the reason why. Julia noted that our waking brain naturally moves through two cycles at about 90 minute intervals for most people. When the beta waves are ascendant, then we are engaged, tending to verbal or thinking in words and in linear ways. When alpha waves rise, we tend to disengage our left brain a little and be more into the right brain world of images, intuition, sensing. If you write something when beta waves are dominant, you will get all the details in, everything of importance included in the piece. But when you go back, 60-90 minutes later, you will find that while the necessary "stack" of information is there, the piece doesn't "flow." So you edit now out of your alpha waves to provide those transitions and sparkle, those images that make the piece have flow and rhythm. By the same token, if you write in a time of alpha wave dominance, it may seem to flow out of you beautifully. But when you go back to edit, you may find that it lacks structure or is missing some information, or may be too vague and imprecise. Use your natural rhythms to improve your writing and editing skills.
Teach Yourself to See
This idea was recommended by Dr. Cecilia Robertson.
Use your camera viewfinder, or make yourself a view finder, by cutting out the center of a paper or cardboard rectangle about 2 inches by 3 inches. Hold it up to see your world---as you walk around your house, your yard, out for a stroll, wherever you go. Look through the viewfinder and find something that is pleasing. Focus on it, then move the viewfinder slightly, half inch to the left or right, or up or down. Find the view that pleases you the most. Then ask yourself why? What about that "composition" appeals/pleases? Is it light, shadow, form, color, contrasts? How does moving it make a difference? This will help you appreciate design and exercise that design "muscle", build up your "eye" and help you see differently.
It will help you notice what attracts you and understand why, so that when you do set out to paint, you have trained yourself into ways of seeing that are meaningful to you.
Along the way, you are practicing a kind of mindfulness in the daily...
Pick Up a Sketchbook
Bill Boychuk of Le Vieux Couvent recommended this when he appeared on our show on August 26th. Start making art with simplicity. Get a simple sketchbook and a pen or pencil, and just take it with you. Sit in a park or a cafe or at a bus or train stop. Just sketch what you see in front of you. People may come around to see what you are doing. Talk to them, engage, ask questions. The sketchbook will help you slow down and start to see differently, to really look at one object or scene, take it in. Don't be concerned about accurate representation. Pay attention to shapes and lines, colors, movement, gesture, interaction, angles, shadows. And be open to the life you are sitting in the midst of, the swirl of activity, the conversations, the sounds of laughter, or dogs barking. Or the scents of flowers, aromas of food being cooked nearby. Be in that place, be present to it, and be ready to encounter the people curious about what you see and how you see it.
The Pinch Pot Exercise
Cindy Johnson of Courage and Renewal North Texas offered up this exercise from a workshop she co-conducted with Donna Bearden. The workshop was called "Courage and the Creative Process." As one of the exercises, they gave partipants a ball of clay. First they fashioned a bowl with their eyes open. Then they were ask to start a new vessel, this time working with their eyes closed. Participants reported the powerful feeling of getting into the "present moment" as they worked the clay with the eyes closed, tuning out distractions, calming their active minds, and just feeling the clay, and their hands shaping it. To try this yourself, just get a simple type of mud clay or workable modeling clay, pound and soften it, roll into a a ball, and then pinch your ball into a the shape of a bowl. Keep your eyes closed while you are shaping! What is it like? What do you notice? What do you notice, for example, about your breathing? Or what happens in the rest of your body?
The Allure of the Raw
This idea was offered up by Corinne Campbell (August 26 Stargazing Stories). Corinne suggests that if exploring your creativity is new, or not been practiced for a long time, or you are in a "stuck" place, to go to an craft store and just browse around, picking things up, considering. When you find something that makes you feel like trying it, or playing with it, buy it and take it home and mess around. You never know where it might lead. I find that a hardware store can be full of inspiration and cheap materials to try in unexpected ways. Or the usual ways, for that matter. Some people, when new to exploration, can find an art store a little intimidating, and that it stirs up old messages about who is or who isn't creative. So look for found objects and materials in a more playful, experimental mood, and just find out more about what you like.
Sandy Wright offers up this process of "writing bursts." Sandy (Stargazing Stories September 2, 2009 episode) recommended that for new and seasoned writers alike, a practice of writing "unfettered" for 3-5 minutes at a time can be transformative for a writing practice. One kind of prompt is to work with what is tangible and visible to you in the present, i.e. choose an object you can see---out the window, on your desk, on your wall, anywhere in the room or within sight---and just write without planning or thinking it out, for 3-5 minutes. This practice serves to create mindfulness in your day, as well as to cut through the usual blinders/obstacles about writing ("I don't feel creative right now...I don't have any ideas....The Muse is absent"-----you get the picture). As the careful observation and writing about something small, or singular or familiar occurs, you may experience a slowing down and a fresh seeing of what you're writing about. It may trigger a long-lost memory or create a new connection between things in your life. Other prompts can be a particular theme, like choosing things shaped a certain way, or of the same color, or list of favorites. The possibilities are many, the time invested brief in the moment, but with great cumulative effect.