Being a creative type is tolling.
Us right-brained folk are always fumbling through the darkest corners of our cognizant processes to find the next lightbulb. When your work and livelihood depend on your ability to produce organic, groundbreaking ideas on a daily basis, it’s a common discouragement within the creative community that our passions shackle us. It’s like having a significant other you hate to love. You breathe their air, and it gives you life, but it suffocates you at the same time.
See, you can’t really force yourself to dip into your unconscious mind (read up on Freud if you’re a little hazy on this term). And when your unconscious is often where your stroke of genius is caught swimming through the weeds, it’s hard to make a deliberate habit of baiting your lure just the right way, time and time again, to continuously catch your brightest and boldest creative motivations. Because truthfully, the mind is a maze, and our lightbulb moments can be just as haphazard as our desk spaces often look to outsiders. (Side note: an organized mess is very well organized. Do not disturb.) Our “play” is also our “work.” Yes, it’s a dream come true, but it also puts a lot of pressure on us.
I have a few books about the creative process, written by others that share these same laments. One of my favorites is The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. Tharp is a renowned dancer and choreographer who also struggles with the burden of her profession/passion crossover. Tharp, like others who have written on the subject, mentions that it is important to find ways to harness your creativity, such as establishing a routine. In The Creative Habit, she details her New York City daily ritual. First thing she does every morning? She wakes up at 5:30 a.m., puts on her workout clothes, hails a cab, and heads to the gym to workout for two hours. However, the ritual isn’t the exercise. It’s the cab.
As soon as Tharp tells her driver where to go, she has already completed her ritual, her habit. And once you nail down a before-work ritual, it habitually catapults your mind into an, “Okay, I’m working now,” mode. Your ritual can be as simple as hopping in a cab every morning, or it can be something more specific, such as the writer who can only create when outside.
The point is, we all have our creative processes that work for each of us. It’s important to find your own and figure out what works for you… which is much easier said than done. We’re often stuck in our heads, beating ourselves up about running into writer’s block or not being able to envision the next paint stroke, making it much more difficult to see past the obstacles and pursue a solution. Gosh, left-brainers just have it so easy! (Winky face.)
What we creatives are constantly searching for is a new perspective. We are terrified of doing something that’s already been done before. It’s imperative to be open to new ways of thinking just as much as it is to have a routine to harness these thoughts and make them come alive through our work. We know that there are a million ways to express that emotion in that poem. We know there are infinite angles to capture that photograph. But the question is, how do we decide? A crucial tenet of creativity is to always be on the lookout for fresh ways to experience things.
Ever hear the phrase, “Stay inspired?” I don’t think it should only apply to creative types.
Sometimes I do this weird thing when I need to feel refreshed. I take a nap diagonally. It’s exactly what it sounds like; I align my head toward the inverse end of the bed on which I “normally” sleep. And I don’t get under the covers. I only use a throw blanket.
It is the most peacefully jarring thing I can explain. My body knows I’m laying the “wrong” way, but it accepts – and enjoys – the newness. Napping diagonally has become my way to reset. I’ve had some of my most eye-opening dreams in the short REM cycles experienced while snuggled up all backwards and upside-down. You know how sometimes you wake up from a nap and feel like you missed 20 years of life but it was only 20 minutes? That’s kind of how my naps are, but I don’t wake up distressed or confused. I wake up slowly and calmly, feeling enlightened and without any sign of drowsiness.
Two months ago, I started sleeping this way through the whole night. Upside-down, on top of my comforter, with only a throw blanket. Every night, I’d get excited to go to bed because it felt so different. Waking up on the other end of the bed gave me a fresh first view of the day – I literally saw things differently when I woke up because my viewpoint was physically stemming from a new location. Intrinsically, my perspective on my own life and circumstances changed. The refreshed feeling from my occasional diagonal naps had translated to my every day lifestyle. I stepped out of my house every morning with a new outlook on my circumstances and consequentially felt happier. I slept this way for 60 days straight.
No doubt, my friends thought I was nutcase. But I encouraged them to just try it once. Sleep backwards, upside-down, diagonally… Whichever one doesn’t throw you into a total vortex of disorientation will certainly enrich your perspective. Whether you’re a creative type looking for inspiration or simply someone who needs to reset their outlook, sometimes all it takes is sleeping a little crooked to shift the way you see things.
Left- or right-brained, I think we could all use a renewed view every now and then.
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