Most of us would like to think more creatively. I would. As human beings, we dream every night and play out all kinds of creative scenes. Writing is my thing, so I want my mind to be filled with new thoughts. I love it when new characters, scenes or plot ideas pop into my head, but I wish they would appear more often. With such an over-active mind, how do I do that?
In one of my first meditation classes at Wanderlust Yoga Festival, I learned that up to 90% of our thoughts are old and repetitive.
Wow. I consider myself a creative thinker, so I was horrified that much of my time is wasted.
The instructor explained there are many kinds of old thoughts. The most common are negative. We play out scenes where we have felt loss or have been wounded long ago. They’re on a loop. We replay them over and over again. There is nothing we can do about these scenes. They happened. They’re in our past. Most of the time these loops make us feel bad, guilty or fill us with regret. Not only do we hold them in our minds, we hold them in our muscles, our gut, our heart, our bones. It’s not healthy.
We think about the people in our lives who misunderstand us.
They live in our present. We regurgitate our latest conversations. They may be one of our acquaintances, a co-worker, or a neighbor. Their negative impact can hold us back in some way when their unkind words make us doubt ourselves. We don’t need more doubt. We have enough as it is. Everyone is on a path, but these people seem to trip us up. These “viral” loops in our brain make us feel inadequate. For some strange reason, we continue to regurgitate them anyway. We add them to our already heavy load. We are sensitive human beings.
On top of that, we have worries and fear.
They live in our future. They are the worst. We make plans and try to control what happens. A certain amount of planning is important, but what if the expectations become huge? It can paralyze us. I have held off sending emails that could further my career in writing because of the fear of a typo, an awkward sentence or a rejection. Instead, I hesitated and had to build up my confidence before pressing send.
There is also the fear of choosing the right path. What if we made a wrong turn somewhere? We may have faltered, twisted and turned around, or may have been seduced by sparkly things along the way. How do we know?
All of these thoughts weigh us down. They take up the majority of our time. In order to free up space for creativity, we shouldn’t think about something that happened last month or ten years ago. The negative people in your life? They aren’t worth your time either. Obsessing about the future doesn’t help since it’s more out of our control than we think and it never turns out exactly how we plan, anyway. So make your plan and move along.
Sound easy? It is.
I say this because I stumbled upon part of this technique before the yoga adventure.
When I received a request for my full manuscript, I was so excited! Then I panicked. Over the previous two weeks, a few new ideas had popped into my head. There were a couple of inconsistencies that needed to be fixed. Since they had bubbled up at weird times during the day, I hadn’t written them down. I couldn’t remember what they were. I was leaving town! I had a doctor’s appointment at 2:00! It was noon! I had two hours!
What would I do?
My stomach knotted while all kinds of negative thoughts popped into my head. I didn’t have time to sit and read through 370 pages, but I wanted to send it as soon as possible. Timing is everything.
I stared at my laptop on the kitchen counter and then I looked down at the rug. It was worth a try. After getting comfortable on the floor, I took a deep breath and tried to clear my frantic mind. I concentrated on my breath (this may sound weird), and stared at the insides of my eyelids. I took several deep breaths and thought about my main character. Then I drifted over (and I mean barely thought about), a few plot points and BAM! Those five corrections popped into my head.
Instead of thinking, I freed my mind and listened.
This happened because I calmed myself and stepped away from the source of stress. Breathing does that. In two three, out two three. Over and over until the heart rate slows and our brains fill with oxygen.
In the case above, I had thought about these corrections before, but only momentarily. I had been in that creative space when they were formed, so I had to get back into that level of calm and relaxed thinking in order to bring them back.
If you’re facing a brain block, sometimes it gets worse if you try to force it. That’s when we are using the wrong part of the brain. I don’t believe good books get written with the cerebral cortex. It’s too logical. Creative thinking has to come from that dreamlike state where the book flows like a movie. I write what I see in my mind’s eye.
I set aside time to write creatively and try to hit between 1000-2000 words. If I’m having a problem settling down, I do what I did when I panicked. I slow my breathing. I think about my last scene and the characters. I try to come up with the most interesting event that could happen, the worst-case scenario, or a way to reveal something new. Then I start writing.
At the festival, I learned another way to become more creative. By letting go of all those negative, unwanted, or unneeded thoughts, the brain can flow into new ideas. The process of letting go makes room for them.
Imagine them as black smoke deep inside your bones, your muscles, your gut. Breathe them out. Get rid of them. You don’t have the time for old negativity.
It’s funny, how it feels weird to let them go. It’s as if we’ve clung to them for protection, but they don’t protect us. They hurt us. They keep our wounds open, so they don’t heal.
The first three days of the festival, all of my old wounds broke wide open. It was scary, at first to be so vulnerable. I had to think about them, so I could finally release them.
Negative memories and thoughts hold us back. They undermine our confidence. We’ve learned our lessons. We don’t need reminders of misunderstandings or mistakes. They need to go back to where they belong. In our past.
Just the fact that 90% of our thoughts are old, changed my thinking.
When something bad happens, I let myself have time to think about it. Then I let it go. It’s not worth my time.
I thought I had to go out and fix everything by doing, but I was wrong. I needed to accept who I am and chill. Everything will ebb and flow the way it’s supposed to if we trust we are on the right path and keep working hard toward our goals. We need to quiet our minds so we can listen to our subconscious thoughts, stop forcing everything to solve problems and be.
We are human beings after all.
Are you able to let go of negative thinking? How does the creative process flow for you?
Another inspiring post for you!