When I was in graduate school and having to write several poems a week, I often found myself stuck for ideas, inspiration, and fresh images. I’d stop and start, pace the living room, feed my parakeet, write a bit more, make some tea, wash a few dirty mugs, and finally force myself to produce something of quality by staring at my computer screen with the powerful eyes of Superman, willing the right words to the page. If I had only listened to the messages my body was sending me!
I believe there is something very physical about creativity. It does not merely jump from our brains and onto the canvas, journal page, or computer screen. My body was telling me to move when I was stuck. All of my pacing and fussing with my environment meant that I needed a new perspective. I believed myself to be a “bad girl” for getting up from my desk so often to fidget with the physical world. But, this movement was exactly what I needed.
There is something profound about physically finding a new perspective when you are stuck. I can just feel the stagnation when I think of classrooms filled with students sitting in straight rows and staff meetings where people are forced to sit for two hours in stale, dry rooms and try to think up brilliant ideas.
As a guest teacher in some community college classes over the last year, I’ve led an exercise where students must physically find a new perspective in the classroom. At first they look at me blankly and step two feet in one direction. I have to explain that they really need to alter their perspective. I tell them to climb on top of and underneath tables; move to the front of the room where the teacher normally stands; hang off the chair backwards and look at the ceiling. Once I give them this permission, the energy really gets moving. In once class, a student tried to fit his whole body into the recycle bin! I tell the students that finding a new perspective in their environment will invariably create a new perspective on their work.
Try this: Sit under your desk, stand on your head, turn the lights off and walk in circles, sit at a different table to write, climb a tree. Find another perspective that is unusual (but safe) to help jumpstart your ideas when you’re at a stand still.
P.S. As a write this, I am sitting in my closet looking up at my colorful clothes hanging above me. Where are you?