Writing Coach Insights: Finding Creative Moments


I don’t remember exactly what I was doing this morning when I began thinking about the way that creativity requires us to stop planning. Maybe I was brushing my teeth, or picking things up off the floor. Did you ever notice that the minute you make a plan for what a piece of writing will look/sound/feel like when it’s finished, you’ve clamped off the flow of creativity and invited in writer’s block? It’s not that planning tools, such as outlines, are our enemies–they’re very helpful in some cases–but when you decide the outcome ahead of time and then rigidly stick to that plan despite where your intuition wants to go, you’ve stepped out of the creative zone and into the world of project management (a very worthy endeavor otherwise, just not in the moment of actually putting pen to paper).

That’s why perhaps some of our most creative moments are those in which we’re performing routine tasks: washing dishes, getting dressed, driving, maybe even, yes, watching tv (that activity so often shunned by certain individuals claiming unique ownership of intelligence and the “worthwhile.” I ask them: have you ever watched Veronica Mars? Do you know that they show Hitchcock on TCM? Do you have any idea how many poems and works of fiction are the result of the movie Vertigo or, dare I say it, even Dirty Dancing? *Gasp*). During the moments we are most consumed with the routine and mundane, our “thinking/planning” minds are occupied–they’ve stepped away from our creative endeavors, ceased and desisted from trying to direct the traffic there. When this happens, the really good creative bits can finally come in, unimpeded. No red lights.

The trick is to develop the ability to turn off our internal traffic cops at will, so that we can enter the creative flow at more convenient locales–say, in front of the keyboard, or when a pad of paper is handy. That’s not to say that you’ll never again pull over the car and scramble for a pen, but the main goal is to step out of the way of your creative mind as much as possible, because it’s the biggest and wisest mind you have, much more so than the one that merely makes judgements and thinks thoughts.