While the creative process can be hard to map, emerging studies show that engagement of the brain’s prefrontal cortex is key. Indeed, this area of the brain needs to focus and work diligently – and then! It needs a break, a time away from the problem at hand, which is known in creativity studies as the incubation period. This is such an important element of creativity to understand – the process does require dedicated time and attention, but it also demands a breather, a chance to gain perspective, an opportunity for expansiveness.
For all creatives, but especially beginners, it is essential to know this. I have found, through my own experience and that of my students, when we begin to feel tired or burned out, we often walk away from direct engagement with a project informed by a sense of defeat. However, the science is revealing that this movement away from conscious focus on an idea, an image, or a lyrical phrase, is a key ingredient in the path to clarity and insight, and maybe even transformation.
So, the impulse to take a walk, or a shower, or to pace around the house – these are not necessarily moments of avoidance. Rather, they are all part of the healthy rhythms of the creative process. This often runs counter to what people think about when their best work happens. Yes, a deadline may force product (and this is why small deadlines can help us reach our larger ones), but it’s important to build in rest periods. The resulting work will often be clearer and more powerful.
If we take this idea – a small break as essential to a given creative project – and build upon it, it’s interesting to explore the ways a fuller break from a product-driven focus might deepen our creative life. What if, through restorative time and a community of support, we had the chance to get quiet within ourselves—would we then have even greater insights?
I think the answer is yes, but I’ve learned that transformation can be both subtle and raucous, and I’ve learned to be patient when the wide-sweeping insights I had expected don’t take place. Perhaps, like the creative process itself, a single thought or modest impulse will bloom into fuller presence through a series of pauses. Maybe over time, with enough support and gentle inner attention, the insights will accumulate into a relationship with creativity that is based in trust, expansiveness, and radiance.
Nursing and nourishing these impulses can take many forms, and Syncreate invites you to commit to your own creative rhythms and quiet impulses. As part of that commitment, please consider joining us for our “Deepening Your Creative Life” retreat, April 4-6, 2014, in Marble Falls, Texas.