Creativity and the Relaxed Mind, Or Lack Thereof

Anyone can put words together, but how does one write? How does one make something from nothing and create a work that has meaning and lasting value? Creativity is obviously key, but what if one’s mind won’t relax enough to allow it?

Moods are fickle friends. One may try to manually create the right mood to be creative. Alcohol is a popular choice for relaxation. However, it’s a misconception that alcohol can stimulate creativity. The image of the alcoholic writer from olden days who was so prolific and verbose is a fallacy. It simply is hard work to write, at least to write well. Besides, if you need to drink to get into the right state of mind, than you aren’t anywhere near the correct state of mind to be writing anyway.

To me, good writing requires that you do two things: (1) have something to say; you must be making a point of some kind, and (2) express a specific emotion. Without that, it won’t resonate with your audience, and your writing won’t stand the test of time. How do you want to be looked on in five years? Do you want to be Milli Vanilli, or the Beatles? Your emotion must surround you. You need to be able to put it on like a shirt, and walk around in it for awhile. Only then can you write about the subject and impart that feeling to the reader.

Composing written works itself is a skill that can be worked on with practice. To create lasting art, however, inspiration must be true. One cannot force true inspiration. You can’t strap yourself in and just bang out work like you would going to your cubicle in any other job. You can’t make it happen. Writing is made more difficult because you never know when inspiration will hit you. And you can’t always just stop what you’re doing to type up that point on the spot. I suppose you can try, but people will look at you funny as you sit on the floor of the grocery store isle furiously typing away at your netbook, while your child sits in the cart looking down on you inquisitively.

Your own mood must be inline with the feeling you are trying to write about, but that can prove more difficult to accomplish than it seems. You may have an idea early in the day. The feeling of the piece may overtake you- but you may not have any time to write until 6 PM. Now at 6 PM when the muse is gone, you aren’t in that mindset anymore. You’re in a completely different mood, and the moment is gone. You either have to wait for it to come back, try to do something to regain it (if that’s possible), or just let it go. Something I try to do is keep a notebook with me at all times. I jot down notes whenever I can. I find that if I can get enough ideas down, hopefully a rough draft, then even if I edit the piece later in another mindset I can still pull off whatever I was attempting with the piece- at least most of the time.

There is a time for simply slogging away, making it happen. There is also a time for waiting for true inspiration, a real feeling that needs to be expressed- that will feel authentic later on. Anyone can put words together in a particular order on a sheet of paper or computer screen. Good writers know how to find the right balance, and when to walk away if it isn’t working. Of course, experience is always a great source of inspiriation. So, as the saying goes, “Live hard, die young, and leave a good looking manuscript.”

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13 thoughts on “Creativity and the Relaxed Mind, Or Lack Thereof

  1. Excellent. I appreciate your thought process, Jeff. This is a great reminder to me not to just try to churn out material for the sake of daily material. Content is king. Filler should be kept to a minimum. Since I’m still starting out, I’ve done a couple of meme-type posts, but I try to make sure they have substance.

  2. Hi, Jeff. I agree with your posting whole-heartedly. I thought when I began my blog that I would write a little something each day. What has happened is that my life (as I should’ve known) isn’t that orderly to allow such a situatin to occur. As you said, too, I feel my blogs have been meaningful because I’ve waited for the emotion to take them over, allowing me to transmit a truth, which then can resonnate with others. I don’t know if you saw my FB posting, but I actually got my first piece of bloggers hate mail regarding my last post: The Definition of Insanity. It came from a man…ha, ha…gotta love it! And, I’m loving this journey as well as being a part of yours. Keep it going!

  3. Excellent post. I really enjoy reading your blog, where does all that clarity come from? I have a lot to say but find that the reader gravitates to children, God, sex and general feel good content. So when my writing goes dark, even if I feel it’s a good bit of writing it sits for me alone. Know what I mean. People want to feel better about life. They want hope and love and sparkly magical caring. Understandable. Just my experience. For whatever it is worth.

  4. Hi! I’m a fairly new reader. I like what you’re saying about writing while you’re in the right mindset, but I wonder if you’ve considered editing inspiration in? Taking it into a different world than the blogosphere, http://nanowrimo.org is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the space of November- it’s not a time to write good work, just to get something out there. However, many people, myself included, have found that as long as the original idea is down on paper it can be transformed into something spectacular. (Which was probably where you were going with the small notebook/draft argument…so, never mind). While it’s not exactly a piece of literary genius, the book Water for Elephants began as a NaNo novel, and I’d venture to say that book isn’t *complete* crap!

  5. I agree whole-heartedly. I try to not feel the pressure to blog every single day… but, I often have these ideas for posts with no time to get them down. I find that if I don’t immediately start writing down what I’m thinking about, when I try to get back into later it doesn’t have the same spark. I often write out-loud when I don’t have my computer around or when I’m in the middle of something, but I still can’t get right back to it. I think that if I made it more a priority, i.e. made sure to write every day, the disconnect from creativity to production would be a little less great… That is the hope. I really enjoy your thoughtful posts. It’s refreshing to read a thoughtful and well-written blog from a stay-at-home parent. I can tell you care about your content. It’s pretty rare… at least in the mommy circles of blogs I’m used to reading… 😉

  6. Yo, dude. I get what you mean about moods – some days, it just ain’t happening, no matter how hard you try. But then, is it better to write something than nothing at all? I beat myself up for a long time when doing a masters degree in creative writing as I never felt my work was ‘worthy’ enough, only to get the best feedback on what I assumed were my desperate, inane scribblings, usually brought into being hours before a deadline, when I felt ‘inspiration’ had left me. My tutor said I would never be a writer if I didn’t write, and unhappily for me, the ‘mood’ to write very frequently eludes me. Which is why the blog kind of saved my sanity – it allows me to write and be creative, and I don’t have to fret about the worthiness of it, because there’s no literary pretensions associated with my online alter ego.

    You raise some salient points (as always) and for what it’s worth, I think you write in a very intelligent yet inclusive way. I always enjoy your posts 🙂

  7. I totally agree and I hadn’t really been thinking about it this way, so thanks for clearing this up for me!! The days when I can feel my characters wrapped around me are the days I write quickly and oh so easily, not to mention these are the days when my writing is the best.

    You gave my blog its first comment and in turn your blog was one of the first I followed, which is one of the reasons I’m saying…

    Congratulations! You have received the Versatile Blogger award! To claim your award please visit this post:

    http://simplysidney.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/versatile-blogger-award/

  8. Jeff – I hear you. I have tons of ideas, but if I try to get them down on paper (or droid) in the moment, a little person smashes a dish or sibling. Once or twice a week I work out, and I make it a practice to sit down for 10 minutes afterwords and get some thoughts on paper. The juice is not there if I wait too long. Thanks for this meditation.

  9. This post really spoke to me. I have recently been struggling with my own muse, who chides to wake me in the middle of the night. Last night I got up at 2 am and worked until 5. I had to get up because the muse wouldn’t let me go back to sleep.

    I hate the hours, but there are few better feelings than when creativity flows.

    1. This post really spoke to me. I have recently been struggling with my own muse, who tends to wake me in the middle of the night. Last night I got up at 2 am and worked until 5. I had to get up because the muse wouldn’t let me go back to sleep.

      I hate the hours, but there are few better feelings than when creativity flows.

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