Creativity – what conditions are best for it? In a recent conversation with a dear friend, we agreed that most of our good creative ideas come when we are doing one of the following – washing our hair, staring out the window, driving, or meditating. We are typically, physically at ease and relaxed. Even when I worked in busy, noisy office spaces, I was able to shut my door or put headphones and be productive. However, about three months ago, a strange thing happened to me. I was able to be creative under very different and unusual circumstances.
I was on a plane trip where I was pretty uncomfortable. The woman next to me had space in her seat to leave me one arm rest for at least part of the flight. She overtook the arm rest between us and randomly leaned a bit into my seat space. Additionally, she was coughing and sniffling into crumpled tissue. There was another seat on the other side of her, in which she could’ve sat. I asked her why she didn’t want the window seat. She told me that in case nature calls, she’d like to be closer to the aisle, so she was fine with the middle seat. I told her I understood and for the same reason, prefer my aisle seat. I added to this with a hopeful smile– “I’m sure we’re both good at sharing an arm rest.” She proved me wrong.
About 4o minutes into the flight, I asked a crew member if there were other empty seats on the plane, and of course, there was not. Not that it seemed to matter much, the majority of passengers sounded sick. So, besides feeling physically cramped, I was having a mild to moderate case of germ-phobia. I decided to make the best of it. I asked the flight attendant for some orange juice. I applied hand sanitizer generously. For a moment, I considered lathering up with up it – smearing it on my face, neck and arms to see if it would disturb my seat neighbor enough to move over. But, I didn’t have much left and wanted it to last the flight. So, I put on my ear buds and started reading a book I got for Christmas – Yes Please, by Amy Poehler, her funny, inspiring, and down-to-earth, nearly mid-life memoir. In it, she described her challenge in writing it –
“ Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or hard it was . . . writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room with leather novels and chai tea . . . what a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”
Creativity and inspiration soon spark. A poem started forming in reply to her writing challenges. I wrote about my struggle with writing a fiction book:
Scribing Story or Sticky Sludge?
The pen is my balancing cane,
as I sludge
through molasses in
Hoping I don’t land on
my ass or in a pile of ashes –
the ashes of books burned
which never saw their finish.
Should I stick not to the molasses,
but the telling of a story to the end?
But what end? Who decides the end?
Is it I, they, or it – the molasses of gray
matter that is my mind of late?
Is it the moles, the curious on-looker of critics,
do-gooding book-readers who poke out their heads
and opinions? Or is it the asses,
the naysayers, and whybothers?
I continue on.
My pen is my support and ally as
I slip and slide down the street of molasses that seems to not end,
doing my best to shake distracting moles and asses along the way.
So, feeling the pressure of being confined to a small, uncomfortable space seemed to force me to intensely focus on other thoughts and ideas – and get some results. Have you had similar moments of creativity? Share your physically, awkwardly, uncomfortable, but creative moments with me in the comments below.