Every morning I wake up and do what most of the world’s adult population does: try not to run into anything as I stagger into the kitchen for that first cup of coffee. Yes, I know there are lots of people out there who don’t drink coffee, but I really try not to think about them because, frankly, I don’t get it. I come from a long, long line of coffee drinkers, and if I’d ever gotten out of bed when I was kid and there *hadn’t* been a pot of coffee in the kitchen and a mug in my mother’s hand? I would have thought I’d been abducted by aliens and transported to some weirdly skewed alternate universe. I would NOT have let that impostor woman kiss me good morning, and there’s no way I would have eaten anything she packed in my lunch.
I take the coffee and whatever project I’m working on into the one room with an eastern-facing window and sit and sip coffee and stitch, letting the sun rise over my shoulder and, eventually, the three cats who live in the house come in and vie for space in my lap. After a while, they’ll settle down to some serious purring, and that’s the best part of my morning ritual: I sip, I stitch, I think.
That last part is key, because it’s not the kind of thinking I do during the rest of the day. I’m not planning or writing in my head or editing or trying to solve problems. No, this kind of thinking is a whole nother kind, the kind that’s unfocused and undirected and that flows in and out of the waking brain like waves. Ideas come and go and circle and re-circle, and it is, in truth, a kind of meditation.
I often think I should try to capture the idea I get first thing in the morning–ideas for projects and interviews, blog posts and errands, things I want to do to the house and the yard and all the clothes in my closet. I’ve tried that, though, and it doesn’t work: as soon as I pick up a notebook and pen, the flow of ideas stutters and grinds to a halt. It becomes something concrete, something Serious. Rather than the play of ideas swirling in my head, it becomes the work of trying to pin them down and capture them. And then all is lost. Once my brain goes into working mode, things are completely different, and I might as well get up and move into the office and start the day’s work.
Since I’m not writing down the ideas, I’m sure to forget them. Most of them won’t ever come back, and that used to bother me a lot. But now I believe that capturing the ideas isn’t what’s important. Not at all. What’s important is giving them space to show up. Even if it seems I forget every single one of them, that’s not really true. Just because I can’t recapture, say, the outline of something I’d like to write or the pattern I imagined for an appliqué, it doesn’t mean it’s lost. It was there, and by being there in my head, it’s made an impression. It changed something or influenced something else, and in some altered form, it will show up again. That’s the beauty of this kind of morning thinking/not-thinking: the things that bubble up again and again are the things that eventually come to life. If an idea presents itself morning after morning, slightly different but still the same at its core, I know it means something and deserves some attention. Those are the ones that stick around long enough that I don’t even have to try to capture them; they just sort of move in and make themselves at home.
This is the kind of thing that fascinates me, and I’ve written about it in Living the Creative Life (especially in chapters 3 & 4) and Creative Time and Space (look in chapters 6 & 9). In truth, it’s endlessly fascinating, this musing about where ideas come from and what we can do to encourage them. In thinking about how this works for me–the whole Morning Routine to Welcome Ideas–I wanted to know how it is for other people, and so I asked my friends on Facebook. Come back and join us on Wednesday when they share their early-morning (or not quite-so-early-morning) routines to encourage creative ideas~~
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