A sun-ripened reflection on finding wonder in the interstitial periods.
There are times when no fine-fingered roots are catching hold on the page. Like a diligent suitor, I have come out daily and laid out the table for my muse…but no baton placed in my hands.
Yet, I feel something wanting to come through. There's this pressure mounting inside…is it a course? Is it a book? A new kind of experience?
The old Dandan would have pushed. She would have scoured her journals for any clues and gone through the grind of gathering the pieces. But I've learned that pushing is counterproductive. Creativity does not like to be forced.
Then I noticed these question buds at the fence of my mind: can I wait until the vision ripens? Can I enjoy the waiting? What is the invitation here?
Waiting is usually an uncomfortable place, but I've learned it doesn't have to be.
When things aren't clear, people usually do one of two things:
1. Force the answer
2. Collapse in the confusion
With the first, you become preoccupied with the search. You try to expedite the vision by putting in more effort, which usually leads to subpar ideas, frustration, and a lack of flow.
With the second, you go completely slack. The lack of clarity on the vision front bleeds into the rest of your days, which sets off this cycle of more confusion and anxiety.
Having cycled through these situations multiple times, I have arrived to a third way.
That is: drop the pressure, but maintain a baseline system for clarity.
Let's address this piece by piece.
By dropping the pressure, I mean letting go of your need for the answer.
When you're unclear on the vision, the most important thing is to go inward and nurture your creativity, which generates fresh ideas and makes new connections.
However, when you're in search for something specific, you keep your brain operating in what's called a Task Positive Network, which is a focused state of attention directed outward. This mode is not conducive to creativity, but productivity/task execution.
On the other hand, your brain can also operate in what's called a Default Mode Network, which is an open state of attention directed inward. It is conducive to creativity and making new connections.
You can't operate in both of these modes at the same time.
While research on this is not conclusive, I find it's a helpful framework that reflects my personal experience. Have you ever struggled at your desk, only to have a creative “aha” moment while walking or doing the dishes? This has happened to me countless times.
In fact, if you look at the great writers and thinkers of our time, you'd be shocked to see how much open space was woven into their days.
If the vision is unclear:
First, nurture your creativity by dropping the pressure. This allows you to enjoy the exploration.
Then, once clarity comes, nurture your productivity by adding pressure.
Charles Darwin arrived to his study at eight after his morning walk and breakfast. He would work for a 1.5 hours, take a break to write letters, and then go back to his experiments.
By noon, he would head out for a long walk. He would then take a nap, answer more letters, and take another walk. One more work block and he was done for the day.
3-5 hours a day with plenty of rest and diffuse awareness is a common theme in the schedules of prolific creatives like Ernest Hemingway and Quentin Tarantino.
So if you're feeling guilty about not always working, I hope you can now give yourself some more grace.
Remember: creativity needs open space and diffuse awareness. When people are unclear on something, they tend to constrict and push for productivity, because that's what feels more validating. It also sucks away the joy.
Even with all this talk on waiting, don't lose sight on how it's a mental construct. Like the clouds above my treehouse, waiting dissolves once you let go of expectations. The question is- is it an empowering concept?
Waiting is still living. Waiting is still composed of notes of now. Can you listen and enjoy their song?
Wishing you a fulfilling journey,
Does a tree "wait" to blossom? Does the sun "wait" to set?
The Art of Waiting
How to Enjoy the "Waiting"
How to Enjoy the
Dropping the Pressure
Maintaining a Baseline System for Clarity
And Yet...Don't Lose Sight
While letting go of the pressure is important for creative visions, it doesn't mean going entirely slack. You still have to maintain a baseline system for clarity.
For me, this system is my morning routine, because it primes my biochemical state for the rest of the day. If I start my day feeling good and grounded in my body, I have better creative ideas and more clarity. It also adds the right degree of structure to counter the entropy that comes with not knowing.
I also sprinkle in play spaces in my week, which are 1 hour blocks of unbridled creative experimentation, learning, and journaling.
Whatever makes you feel well and nourished is worthwhile to include. The key is to systematize them in your schedule, so it's easier to implement and doesn't feel like random flitting about- which will just heighten your anxiety.
You can read my guide to crafting life-giving starts to your day here.
A 12 week journey of self discovery for those who long to live life as their unique work of art.
Join us for this playful, creative, and embodied pilgrimage through uncharted territories of your inner landscape. Unlearn the biggest barriers to your dreams and reclaim parts of yourself that have been lost along the way.
Discover your next steps alongside a safe and nurturing community of people finding their way home just like you.
Wake up feeling in awe of your life