If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing. -Coco Chanel
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
It is time for a new social contract.
Momma Welfare Roll
Her arms semaphore fat triangles,
Pudgy hands bunched on layered hips
Where bones idle under years of fatback
And lima beans.
Her jowls shiver in accusation
Of crimes clichéd by
Repetition. Her children, strangers
To childhood’s toys, play
Best the games of darkened doorways,
Rooftop tag, and know the slick feel of
Other people’s property.
Too fat to whore,
Too mad to work,
Searches her dreams for the
Lucky sign and walks bare-handed
Into a den of bureaucrats for
‘They don’t give me welfare.
I take it.’
By Sam Harrison
When painting landscapes, Matisse would sometimes pause to study his subject matter and reflect on it. His peaceful pausing would arouse his subconscious mind and he could return to his canvas with clearer, fresher perspective.
Pausing is a powerful part of the creative process, whether it’s watching a distant sunset, strolling a nearby park, or taking a long shower.
Our brains need time to reflect and recharge. The act of pausing facilitates creative cognition and brings about those “aha” and “eureka” solutions.
“Sometimes this happens when you didn’t even know you were thinking about the problem,” says Mark Beeman, a professor at Northwestern University’s cognitive neuroscience program. “It’s as if a light turns on and you suddenly see an answer to a problem that had stumped you.”
Here are six ways to use pausing for more potent creativity:
There’s much talk these days about mindfulness, which emphasizes attentiveness to the present. Mindfulness has strong mental and physical values, especially for primary tasks such as reading. However, recent studies show that not allowing the mind to also frequently wander can hinder creativity.
“Mind wandering seems to be very useful for planning and creative thought,” said Dr. Jonathan Schooler, a researcher at the University of Santa Barbara in California’s department of psychological and brain sciences, during a CNN interview.
“It seems that allowing people an incubation period in which to let their mind wander really helps the creative process.”
Seventy percent of offices now have open floor plans. These open workspaces are conducive to interacting and collaborating, but disruptive to pausing and pondering.
If you work in an open office, stake out a possible hideaway, a place you can dash to now and then for a few quiet minutes. Maybe it’s an empty conference room or unused office. A restroom stall or unused basement. Any secret space you can scamper to when you need to space out.
After I mentioned hideaways during a talk to an in-house creative group, one designer showed me a folding chair he had stashed away in the far corner of the building’s air conditioning and electrical room. “It can be loud, but I can be alone,” he said.
Next time you’re in an airport or coffee shop, check out people sitting around you–at least 75% will be looking down at smartphones or tablets. Just a few years ago, many of those same folks would have been gazing around or daydreaming. But the gravitational pull of screens now steals time from reflection and zoning out.
While few are likely to give up their devices, reminding yourself to occasionally pause and look up can help. Stare into space. Look out windows. Study ceilings. Leonardo encouraged his young followers to focus on random stains on walls. Maybe just close eyes and breathe. Ideas are in flight patterns around our brains, just waiting for clearance to land.
Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s most creative presidents, was a huge advocate of walking. “The object of walking is to relax the mind,” he said. “You should not permit yourself even to think when you walk.”
Walking provides a clear path for pausing. It’s a great way to free the mind, assuming our hands also remain free of cell phones and printed materials.
Author Robert MacFarlane describes walking as a full-body experience. “Mind and body function inseparably,” he says, “such that thought becomes both site-specific and motion-sensitive.”
And a persuasive endorsement for walking comes from poet Wallace Stevens, who wrote: “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”
Pausing can be analogous to a fallow field–a calm, silent place of restoration, with imminent growth just below the surface.
“I am a compost heap,” writes author Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car, “and everything I interact with, every experience I’ve had, gets shoveled onto the heap where it eventually mulches down…It’s from that rich, dark humus that ideas can start to grow.”
Pausing is fruitless if you don’t capture what pops up. Keep a notebook or pad handy for fleeting insights and ideas. When ideas come to legendary singer and songwriter Neil Young, he stops whatever he’s doing and writes them down.
“Those ideas are a gift,” Young told interviewer Charlie Rose, “and you aren’t being respectful to the gift if you don’t pay attention and write it down.”
Fast Company / Dialed / Published: February 19, 2014
You showed us all.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela // 18 July 1918 − 5 December 2013