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The simple habit that’s as invigorating as a cup of coffee

WOMAN WRITING
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Try this easy exercise and see for yourself.

When I was in college, freewriting was a daily habit. I was always writing something or other; sometimes poems, sometimes short stories, sometimes just strings of words and associations that popped into my head. It felt like I had a well of creativity constantly churning out ideas and I worried that if I didn’t write them down, I would lose them.

Alas, over a decade of motherhood has stamped that habit right out of my life. I no longer write anything except the occasional school or thank-you note, and when I do I’m embarrassed by my chicken-scratch handwriting. It’s easier for me to get ideas out while typing, but even when I put my fingers to the keyboard in a brand-new Word document, I never seem to access that well of creativity I did before. I figured I stopped writing because it ran dry about the time I stopped having time to indulge it.

But I was intrigued when I read a post at Psychology Today about freewriting as a means of inspiring creativity, rather than a result of creativity. The author suggested a simple exercise with five steps could be as invigorating as a cup of coffee or a power nap, which I will admit I laughed out loud at. But since it was simple and ground rule was to keep them pen moving without correcting mistakes, I also tried it. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Check in with how you feel before you start. Jot that down. Or rate the intensity of your anxiety if that’s what you’re experiencing.
  2. Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Begin with the prompt, “I know with my whole heart that …” or “I remember …” and let the flood gates open. For finding solutions, craft a tailored prompt that relates the challenge at hand. Keep your pen moving and see where it takes you.
  4. Stop when the timer goes off.
  5. Check in with how you feel now. Record any differences you notice.

I was amazed at what happened. For the first time in years, I felt a spark of that long-dormant creativity well up within me. I came up with new phrases that had never heard nor said, and captured some interesting emotions lying under my conscious radar. Also, I did feel more awake and invigorated. But I felt significantly more invigorated when I did it again and paired it with a cup of coffee.

I wonder now if all that creativity bubbling inside me was the result of my constant freewriting, rather than the impetus for it. If so, it makes sense that when the writing stopped, so did the creativity. I’ll have to pick up the habit again when I have more time … say, in another decade or so.

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