We know recess and free play is extremely important for children’s development, yet as adults we hinder these same experiences for ourselves. We think we’re too grown for such frivolous thoughts. Yet, it’s that freely wandering mind where all of our best ideas form. So, how can you tap into that unfocused place in your mind to refocus on your writing? Here are ten tips:
Stop doing all the things. We cram our schedules too full of work, responsibilities, to-do lists, and more, that we don’t even have space on our calendars to let our minds wander. We jump from task to task without a 30-second pause. We cause our own burnout, which leads to a lack of creativity.
Take an afternoon or a weekend to do nothing. I put this exact advice into action over July 4th weekend. I took five whole days off from work. I didn’t look at my computer or check email or write one single word in that span of time. Instead, I sat by the pool. I read two books from cover-to-cover. I made a home-cooked dinner each night. I drank wine. And I barely even looked at my phone. By allowing my mind to rest and not forcing myself to continually put one foot in front of the other, I came up with some really great ideas to grow and expand my business and I’m now working on those plans.
Forget your phone at home. I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. I love that it keeps me connected to my favorite people in the world. I love that I can literally Google anything on the fly. I love all the apps that truly make my life so much easier. I hate that I feel so dependent on it. I hate that I feel information overload if I spend too much time on it. I hate that I can feel rundown after scrolling through social media for too long in the evening. So, I’ve learned to simply forget my phone at home entirely or to put it on airplane mode so I’m not bombarded with others needing my attention. This goes a long way in reconnecting with my thoughts.
Set aside your responsibilities. I’m all for having a clean home, checking errands off my to-do list and having an overall sense that I am on top of my responsibilities at all times. That, however, doesn’t always leave room for free thinking or play time. So, I have learned to be OK with some dishes in the sink or a floor that can be vacuumed later. I’m OK with an unmade bed in place of free writing. I’m OK with running errands later in favor of lacing up my sneakers and hiking to the peak of a mountain. Those activities, not responsibilities, help us tap into our creativity again.
Get out of your element. Don’t just sit at home for this exercise. Get outside. Go somewhere you’ve never been before and just let your mind wander. Maybe you go to a coffee shop you’ve never been to before or you take a hike. Maybe you even get out of town for the weekend. However you choose to get out of your element, relish in the freedom that comes with it.
Take just pen and paper with you. These two tools don’t bring distraction with them like a laptop, iPad or phone would. So, go back to the basics and carry your favorite notebook and pen with you.
Meditate if you need to. If you struggle to clear you mind on your own, try meditating with your eyes closed for 30 seconds to one minute. Allow the restrictive thoughts to slip away and find stillness.
Write down anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter what you put on paper. It doesn't matter if those words correlate to a specific writing project you’re working on or if it’s goals you want to accomplish. Maybe you end up exploring some pent-up feelings you didn't know you had or fears you didn’t know you needed to overcome. It truly doesn’t matter what you write as long as you write. Don’t set a timer or self-imposed stop time. Write until there is nothing left to write. Then, and only then, will you be done.
Don’t self-edit. The best way to staunch the flow of your words is to edit as you write. Take off your editing hat and let the words and thoughts flow freely. This isn’t the time to worry about what you’ve put on paper, if your words are any good, or even what you’ll do with these pages once you’re done. Just enjoy the process of putting words on paper.
Leave space in your schedule for free time. As you move forward, continue to leave more and more space in your calendar to unfocus. Give yourself more time to do nothing. The more you leave room to play, the more your creativity will flow.