A quick story: Popular legend has it that a colleague once asked Albert Einstein for his phone number. Einstein reached for the phone directory and looked it up. amazed, the man responded by asking, “You don’t remember your own number?” The great scientist shrugged and replied “Why should I memorize something I can get so easily from a book?”
I love this story! For me, it instantly conjures up a picture of a mind like one of the drawers in a little chest in my house, cluttered with all kinds of bits and pieces of this and that, to the point where it’s almost hard to close. When I think of all the “stuff” I stuff my own mind with every day, just to manage the daily business of life, I realize just how profound and valuable our boy Albert’s approach can be. He wanted to leave his mind loose and limber, free to wander and discover. He wanted mental space, not clutter. What a wise man he was — and how valuable his approach can be to us as writers!
So, how can we all empty out our mental clutter? A few ideas spring to mind:
We can get the rest we need: I don’t know about you, but when I’m fatigued, I find it hard to keep my mind from rambling. Sometimes this is good, because my inner censor gets sleepy and my creative juices flow. But sometimes, being tired just makes me feel confused or sluggish.
We can go easy on the visual overload: Images roving around in our mind can easily overwhelm our own ideas. Has this ever happened to you: You see a film or watch TV for a long period of time and your mind just seems to lose its elasticity? It’s happened to me. I think this is because I’ve overdosed on visual images. The result? It’s harder for me to separate what I’ve seen from what I want to create myself. So, while it’s important to be entertained, it’s also good to give your mind a break from too much visual input when you are trying to work.
We can just be quiet — and listen: I’ve found that one of the best ways for me to declutter my mind before a writing session is to simply sit quietly and let my thoughts float up and wander where they will. As I give them the freedom to rise and fall away, my mind seems to loosen up. It feels airier, more spacious. Sometimes a fresh idea I can play with seems to drift up into my consciousness like a bright red balloon.
What ways do you have of freeing your mind from clutter? I’d love to hear them! Free, spacious, limber minds: Let’s take a tip from amazing Albert as we all write on!
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