I have one of those minds that never shuts down even when there’s nothing to think about. That’s why I can’t get to sleep and, when I do, why I have all those crazy dreams I wrote about in a previous post. Sleep deprivation aside, a whirling mind makes it difficult to focus on writing.
Which brings me to the value of engaging in mindless tasks. My morning run is a perfect example. My legs, lungs, and heart are working hard, but my brain is on cruise control. I run basically the same course every day, often in the dark, which limits my sensory input. After a few minutes, the rhythm, quiet, and darkness shut off my conscious mind and let my subconscious take over. That’s when my best creative thinking happens.
You don’t have to be a runner to benefit from mindless tasks—any boring, repetitive activity will do. One of my spring projects is to cover the berm beside our driveway with river rock. So far I’ve hauled in and spread three and a half tons of rock, and I have at least two more tons to go. Scooping and tossing rocks provides hours of mindlessness—and days of sore muscles afterward.
Our acreage provides plenty of mindless tasks to give my subconscious a chance to shine. Lawn mowing is one of the best. I pop in my earplugs, rev up the engine, and drive off. An added bonus of mowing is the vibration, which relaxes me even more. There are problems with being too relaxed, though, like running into low hanging tree limbs, woodchuck holes, and bushes I planted just a little too close together. It would also help if I remembered to take my foot off the gas to stop instead of trying to pump the nonexistent brake pedal.
When I get tired of mowing and scooping rock, I pull weeds and plant flowers. And there’s the chore I always put off until last—mucking out the guinea cage. If I wait long enough sometimes Mike gives in and takes over that nasty job.
Whatever mindless task is occupying my mind, I keep my miniature recorder nearby to capture any creative gems before they slip away.
So, do you use mindless tasks to spark your creativity? If not, I’ll be happy to point you to my asparagus bed. By the time you clear out the weeds you’ll have enough material for a thousand-page novel.