Archive for Creativity Posts

published in Book Reviews, Change, Creativity, Dreams/Goals, Habits, Inspiration, Productivity by Maryanne | June 12, 2018 | No Comment

WHEN? Why Time of Day Matters

 

“The best time to perform a particular task depends on the nature of that task.”

– Daniel Pink, When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Just going to tackle that oh-so-important task any old time?

Think again…on when.

I recently finished reading Daniel Pink’s latest book, When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. It is excellent.

In terms of brain-power, “Our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day,” Pink explains. “We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others.”

This may seem obvious (I, for example, am pretty much useless after 8 p.m.) but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily taken into account when making decisions or solving problems.

And this can lead to problems – often as the result of making poor decisions. “The effects,” cautions Pink, “can be significant but are often beneath our comprehension.”

Most of us are sharper in the morning

“The best time to perform a particular task,” Pink says, “depends on the nature of that task.” According to the research, for the majority of people, our sharp-minded analytic capacities – our ability to concentrate and our powers of deduction – peak in the late morning or around noon.

Why? Because “when our minds are in vigilance mode,” explains Pink, “as they tend to be in the mornings, we can keep distractions outside the cerebral gates…but our alertness and energy levels that climb in the morning and reach their peak around noon, tend to plummet during the afternoons. And with that drop comes a corresponding fall in our ability to remain focused and constrain our inhibitions.”

Not all brain work is the same

I found this differentiation fascinating:

An analytic problem doesn’t require any special creativity or acumen. Yes, it can be tricky but it has a single correct answer and you can reach that answer via logic.

Whereas an insight problem is one in which reasoning in a methodical, algorithmic way won’t yield a correct answer. Rather, the answer will (eventually) come after a “flash of illuminance” – otherwise known as an aha! moment, which can help you see the facts in a new way…and then you will be more likely to solve the problem.

So, for most of us, when our brains are in vigilance-mode in the morning, we are better able to solve analytic problems by keeping out distractions. “In the mornings, most of us (but not all) excel at analytic work that requires sharpness, vigilance, and focus. Later in the day, during recovering, most of us do better on insight problems that require less inhibition and resolve.”

Why? “Because insight problems are different,” says Pink. “They require less vigilance and fewer inhibitions. That flash of illuminance is more likely to occur when the guards are gone.”

In fact, there is a term for this phenomenon: “inspiration paradox.”

Get this: “Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to circadian rhythms.”

If you are not familiar with circadian rhythms, Pink examines the findings on those as well. But basically there are several different “chronotypes,” one of which a person falls under. A chronotype is “a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology.”

For example, I am an early bird (or “lark”). I have the most energy and get my best work done early in the morning – but don’t expect much out of me in the evening (unless I’ve had a nap).

Pink’s book resonated with me because it makes sense. I figured out a long time ago that I did my best writing in the early mornings. The trick has been for me to learn how to stay clear of looking at e-mails or social media until after I have finished my writing for the day.

In the first part of the morning, I am better able to avoid allowing myself to become distracted. I have learned, time and again, that once I have “just taken a peek at e-mail,” I am sucked into the vortex…and my writing – my intense-focus work – for the day is done. So for me, I wait until later in the morning or early afternoon to tend to my e-mail.

Whereas mid to late afternoon has always been down-time for my brain. I’m not alone. This is the time of day that Pink calls a “trough.” In fact, most people are not at their sharpest mid-afternoon. Yet they plow on through – often because their work requires them to. I fade out big-time in the mid to late afternoon and try to either have a nap, do appointments or errands, go for a walk or do a work task that requires less brain-power such as filing, dishes, folding laundry, etc.

But for me, it is often during this mental down-time that the greatest insights come – often pertaining to the writing project I was working on in the early morning. If so, then I just jot down a quick note, then incorporate it into the project when I am sharp and focused again the next morning.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the time of day impacts how your brain works, I highly recommend When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Along similar lines is Chris Bailey’s brilliant book, The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention and Energy.

Here are two blogs I wrote about The Productivity Project:

Hey Busy Bee – How Productive ARE You in That Little Hive of Yours? 

Do you Procrastinate? Here’s a Tip – Think of Your Future Self

I love learning about how to make better use of my day so that I can get done what needs to get done, in as little time as possible. As I get older, I want to be spending less time in front of the computer, not more.

Interestingly, when I share with people what I am learning about circadian rhythms and how to best utilize our daily energy and focus to maximize productivity, I often hear a comment to the effect of: “Well, you’re lucky you get to work when you are the most productive. Most of us have to work when our jobs require us to work and we just have to make the best of it.”

I never know what to say this. Yes, it’s true: I am blessed to be able to work when I work best – and I take full advantage of that.

But I suspect there may often be some room for tweaking one’s work schedule to better suit one’s energy levels. Individuals working at their highest productivity leads to more productive organizations…and safer, healthier and happier ones, too.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

 

 

published in Achieving Your Dreams, Creativity, Dreams/Goals, Gratitude, Inspiration, Travel, Writing by Maryanne | March 14, 2018 | 2 Comments

Sedona Unplugged

 

“The person who knows you the best is you. We have eyes that watch ourselves. We know what we want. You need courage not to turn away from that.”

– Ilchi Lee, The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart

Howdy! 

Oh my goodness…I am SO flippin’ grateful to be seeing such breathtaking beauty on this road trip. What a planet!

After leaving Yuma, my GPS took me a bit of an odd way to Sedona and I ended up in the Sonoran Desert. Check out the size of these cacti (when they are this big, they’re likely hundreds of years old):

Cacti in Sonoran Desert

Seeing the red rocks of Sedona for the first time really DID take my breath away. I had never been to Sedona before and wasn’t entirely convinced it could possibly be as beautiful as they say. It was. I think I left my heart there.

The gate at my sweet casita

Our casita rental was perfect…clean, cozy, extremely quiet and high up in the mountains so there wasn’t much in the way of cell phone service or wifi. HOORAY! I needed to unplug for a few days…no texts, no e-mails and very little social media. When I went into town (to get to the different trail heads), I would quickly post some photos on social media but other than that, the break away from the damn phone and e-mail was very much needed.

While in Sedona, I focused on some bigger writing projects and did plenty of hiking. WOW! Here are some photos from Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte:

 

 

 

I came home from a hike one day and got chatting with the woman, Sue, who lived in the home behind my casita. She invited me for a drink so I went over, hummus & crackers in hand. We talked like we’d known each other for years – and then went back to our respective routines. I suspect that is how it goes in Sedona.

Of course, Sedona is also believed to be a vortex meditation site…places of power in the red rocks that enhance prayer, contemplation and reflection for people of all faiths. A vortex, I learned, is an area of enhanced energy that is thought to provide inspiration and well-being.

There are several well-known vortexes in Sedona, such as Boynton Canyon (which I got to hike on a blue sky day!):

 

Whatever the heck is going on, energy-wise, in Sedona I tapped into it big-time.

From a writing perspective, I stopped being so adamant about finishing one project before working on another, which is really scary! But in Sedona, I felt the need to relax a little and allow myself to work on the project that was calling to me that day versus forcing myself to finish what needed finishing.

Sure enough, my creativity soared…and I had insights in one project that sparked insights on another. The combination of unplugging from technology for a few days and allowing myself to write for the sheer joy of writing, (instead of writing to get the damn thing done) seemed to unplug whatever it was that had got stuck…the old synapses were certainly firing in Sedona.

And then, on the day I went hiking at Boynton, the parking lot was full so I asked an old-timer where I could park. He suggested (a tad grumpily) that I park in “RV only” area. So I was just about to pull away when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a heart-shaped red rock and handed it to me.

“This is for you,” he said. “A gift from Mother Nature…unconditional love and magic.”

I smiled, thanked him and took the rock. Magic was just the word I needed to hear for the writing project I’d been working on that morning. I suspect that sort of thing also happens quite a bit in spiritual Sedona.

Because it was too hot most days to leave Sadie in the car, I left her at the casita when I went hiking. But don’t feel too badly for her, this was the scenery on our morning walks around the ‘hood:

On our last day, the weather shifted back to the more seasonal norm and it was cool enough to take her with me on a hike. This is a great shot of Sadie…she matches red earth!

Then we left Sedona and headed to Tusuyan to see the Grand Canyon…I shall save for those photos for next week.

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic week!

“Even when it comes to our own problems, there are many times when we say, “I don’t know,” and fool ourselves. Because when we acknowledge we know something, we have to act on it, so we tell ourselves we don’t.”

– Ilchi Lee, The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart

If you are just joining us on our Bohemian Writing Road Trip Adventure & would like to do a little catch-up reading 🙂 here are my previous blogs:

She Packed Up Her Potential…

Write On – Writing What We Know May Help Teach Us What We Need to Learn

On the Road…But Nearly Not

Surprise! Greetings from Newport

Is That a Dipstick in Your Pocket – Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Dipstick Theme Continues – Don’t Get Excited

Hunkered Down in Hollywood

Celebrating 50 in Style

California Chillin’ (Sorta) in San Diego

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

 

 

published in Change, Collaboration, Creativity, Dreams/Goals, Playwriting, Writing by Maryanne | December 6, 2017 | 4 Comments

Write On – Exploring What We Know May Teach Us What We Need to Learn

 

MA writing in Anacortes, WA

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

– Anais Nin

Greetings from Victoria!

My apologies for not getting a blog written last week. I was on Orcas Island (San Juan Islands) in Washington state and the power kept going out. And when the power was on, I was madly writing The Neighbours play script – now tentatively titled Bungalow by the Sea.

The good news: I made tremendous headway on the play over the past two weeks – thanks in huge part to Lynne Karey-McKenna, an actress and director who is helping me develop the script. Lynne also has a background in psychology, which is turning out to be rather handy.

Lynne reading script

Getting the key scenes in place has been relatively straightforward since the play is based on my real-life experience of living next door to noisy neighbours on a busy street. There’s no shortage of comedic scenarios to draw from…blaring music, spectacular arguments, boa constrictors in the shed, bandsaws, an old fridge in the yard, power washers, raging bonfires, leaf blowers, nail guns, rats in the crawlspace (mine), trucks roaring by, etc.

The sound tech is going to LOVE producing this play when the time comes!

The not-so-good news is that trying to determine the main character’s (“Josie”) motivation for putting up with the noise and madness for seven years has been a little…uncomfortable, shall we say.

For who in their right mind would STAY – when they don’t have to?

It’s a good question…one this particular playwright is in the midst of trying to answer.

I am (obviously) a firm believer in the old adage: “Write what you know.” I like this advice not because it’s easier to write what we know – but rather because writing what we know has tremendous potential to teach us what we need to learn…if we can get out of our own way.

But writing, of course, isn’t the only way to explore potentially useful lessons that may be hiding in a difficult life experience…or, perhaps more importantly, our response to that experience.

MA & Lynne by fire at Rosario Resort on Orcas Island

Working with Lynne on Bungalow by the Sea is helping me do just that – kicking, screaming and arguing all the way, of course…rather like my former neighbours. But there have been an awful lot of laughs, as well…for good ol’ “Josie” is quite the nutty character herself 😉

As for life on the road?

Ahhh…plenty of valuable lessons being offered up here, as well. As an example, I am learning (whether I like it or not), to be flexible. This has never been a strength of mine.

I am a planner…I like things to go according to plan. I love order. I need to be organized.

Hah! All of this has now officially flown out the window of my jam-packed CRV.

For as a friend recently asked (in a kind way): “Uhhh…isn’t the point of a Bohemian adventure to NOT plan every detail and just go with the flow?”

In theory, yes. In practice, this micro-manager has some adjusting to do.

Here are a few more photos from my travels over the past couple of weeks:

Lovely shot of dusk at Eastsound on Orcas Island

 

Waterfall on the way to Mt Constitution, Orcas Island

Great shot of Sadie & her pal, Monte, in Anacortes, WA

 

Wow…poor old Garfield didn’t fare so well after Sadie & Monte got a hold of him 🙁

 

My writing assistant slacking off by the fire…again!

A note about WWOW…

So that I can focus on my road trip and bigger writing projects over the next few months, I will be sending out a WWOW blog every second Wednesday, instead of every Wednesday.

See…look at me learning to be flexible 😊

Related blogs by Maryanne

It’s Never Too Late to Revise – Lessons in Creative Collaboration

It’s Never Too Late to Revise – Part 2

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life