How Woolgathering Can Help you Spin Yarns
When is daydreaming a good thing? Believe it or not, there are times when shifting your brain from “drive” to “neutral” can help rescue you from a stuck situation or help you create something wonderful. I’ve written before about how it can be useful to set an intention for your unconscious mind, then distract yourself or forget about it. This is a related idea, but different.
In the 1800′s chemists were having a hard time explaining how benzene could exist. The weight of the molecule and the atoms that made it up were known, but they couldn’t figure out how to make the molecule make sense. The man who gets the credit for figuring out the structure, Friedrich Kekule, stated that he was dozing by the fire and dreamed of a snake biting its own tail (an image more common back then than now) and he realized that the structure of benzene would make sense if the carbon atoms were in a ring. While there are some people who contest that Kekule was actually the first man to figure out the ring structure, the role his unconscious mind played in helping him figure it out is undeniable. Einstein was well known to play the violin when he was stuck on a math problem, an activity doubly useful for him since the part of the brain that handles mathematics also handles music.
When you’re stuck on something, taking a break and letting your mind wander (or maybe even napping in front of a fireplace) can give your unconscious mind the chance to steal energy from the processors that make up your brain and handle the problem differently, laterally. Lateral thinking is a cool concept and helps solve problems that would otherwise leave people stuck. Feel free to research it if you haven’t already done some reading on it, and there are lots of puzzles that are based on lateral styles of reasoning. It is also a style that your unconscious is supremely effective at handling.
What sort of activities are useful? They are ones that don’t require ALL of your attention, so pick something that you already have enough skill in that you can do it without having to think of every step involved in the task. For some people that’s cooking, or housecleaning, or playing music that they’re familiar with, or playing basketball. Years ago, in grad school, I knew a student who, when he was trying to figure out how to make a point in a paper he was writing, would doodle, drawing swirls and cartoons in margins and on blanks spaces. At some point in the process, he said, he would usually have an idea of what to do next in his paper. However, you have to be willing to seize the chance by breaking from what has left you stuck and let yourself disengage from it with one of these activities.
It works that way for me, too, sometimes. When I’ve been working to craft a metaphor for a client, sometimes I’ll be doing something unrelated and Boom! I’ll get the overall structure or some key element that has to happen in the metaphor I’m wanting to craft, enough that I can then shape it into what I need.
There is a way, however, to help this process be less random and more under your control. The New Code has games that are designed to push your brain into an ideal state, a state that leaves your mind MUCH more flexible than it normally is when you’re feeling stuck. If you have access to someone trained in this approach (and all of the folks at Bright Mind are, of course!), ask them to help you set up the process and approach that area where you’ve been stuck with a much more finely tuned brain. Why should we be stuck only playing violins to help boost our creativity, when we have the finest, most mathematically tuned organ in the world, right behind our eyes?