Depending on who you ask, creativity strikes on its own whim. It comes when you’re in the middle of a bio test or sitting in rush hour traffic or when you’re invested in a deep conversation with your best friend. Then, when you sit down at your desk, ready to write, it’s like it was never even there in the first place. We’ve all been there before. Where do you start when the poetry gets stuck, when the characters are all wrong, when the words don’t exist yet for something you haven’t even thought of?
According to one study, people are most able to do constrained thinking (like concentrating on solving singular, linear issues) when they’re at full mental capacity, which varies person to person. If you’re a morning bird, this will be when you wake up; and as a night owl, it’ll probably be easier later in the day. Thinking expansively, though, in a creative capacity where the bounds are nonexistent and the opportunities are limitless -- this is actually better to do when you’re not feeling so hot intellectually. The idea is that when you’re mentally “on,” you have the focus that you can dedicate to one task. When you’re a night owl still in that morning haze, your lack of concentration actually allows your mind to take all sorts of paths, which will likely produce some unique ideas.
Routine is how most of the greats became great -- rise, focus, write, repeat, on the same schedule every day. This repetition gives you subconscious cues that it’s time to get into the thought patterns that help sculpt your stories from the ground up. Once you’ve got your routine down, make sure you can stay in the flow. High intensity noise over 95 decibels - think a food processor - is not going to be conducive to your writing, and if you want to be most productive, split your work into 1-3 hour chunks followed by a break. Keep in mind that these are pretty broad generalizations coming from psychologists, and that maybe you function differently - like Allen Ginsberg, who could work anywhere, or maybe like Ray Bradbury, whose constant inspiration negated the need for a schedule.
When asked about his writing habits, E.B. White replied, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” So if you’re trying to get your wordplay into the world, consider this: make your ideal conditions every day, so that in the end, you are the master of the word count.
If you’re looking for more information, here are some good places to start.
Written by Kristen Hickey ('20)
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.