Spring Cleaning: The Mind Dump

Ways to Unlocking Creativity

In last week’s blog post, we talked about negative thought patterns that prevent us from unlocking our creative potential and often get in the way of writing, or any other creative act. This week we’re going to prepare our brains for composing a first draft (but this works for painters, sculptors, chefs, or anyone who desires to unlock their creative potential). Last week’s post concluded with an exercise that asked you to just write for 10 minutes about anything – it doesn’t matter what. Why is this important?

When you are given an assignment to write (and this is especially true for the high-risk writing you are asked to do for college) your brain begins to play tricks on you. You’ll think of a topic to write about, but then Mr. Censor butts in. Mr. Censor says things like, “You call that writing? You can’t even spell. How are you going to write a 5 page narrative essay? Do you really want the teacher to read that?” and on and on.

Everyone has a Mr. Censor in their life, but some Censors are louder than others. Some people have learned to tune Mr. Censor out. So how do you shut him up?

Remember that Mr. Censor’s opinions of your writing are not the truth. But believing in yourself and not Censor’s noisy voice takes practice. By writing a little every morning before you begin your day, you can learn to avoid Censor. This is the Mind Dump.

Begin your day by Mind Dumping, or writing what Censor thinks of you (you’re a lousy speller; you don’t know punctuation from a hole in the ground; you never had an original thought in your life). Once you let Censor have his say, keep writing, emptying your mind of all your worries. The idea is to dump everything out of your thinking brain and onto the paper: the rent is due; I have to take my kids to the dentist; my car needs an oil change; I don’t understand the assignment; I was up all night with a headache; I have to work all weekend. Keep going. Empty everything out that’s been on your mind until all your worries and concerns are on the page in front of you.

After you’ve emptied your mind, notice how you feel, both physically and mentally.

After a mind dump, you’ll breathe a little easier. You’ll feel a little lighter. Now that essay for English class that’s been nagging at your mind all week won’t feel so overwhelming. You might even get some new ideas for essays you’d like to write later.

If you have trouble sleeping, try doing a mind dump right before bed to clear your thoughts. We all have worries, some we can do something about, but some we can’t. Just acknowledging what’s on our logical minds will clear a pathway for our creative minds to freely write the essay, paint the landscape, create the recipe, or anything else that takes a clear head and creative thought.

Once your mind is clear, Mr. Censor’s voice won’t be so loud. You’ll see it for what it is, not the voice of reason but a blocking device to your creativity. Even professional writers have their own Censors; they’ve just learned how to ignore them. Spending a few minutes each day on a mind dump will help you silence Mr. Censor and put you on the path to reaching your full creative potential.


Unlocking Creativity

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.                                                   
Joseph Chilton Pearce


Remember when you were a child, and you approached life opened-armed with unbounded enthusiasm, without fear of failure, without considerations of what others thought or fear of being judged, and just played for the sheer joy of play?

Then you grew up.

Somewhere along the way, that creative child was told he was making mistakes. Maybe at some time, that child broke a rule. Other kids – or adults – made fun of that child’s ideas. Or maybe the child was told he was stupid, or a daydreamer (as if that was a bad thing) or irresponsible or – fill in the blank.

Now you’re in English or Creative Writing class, and your instructor asks you to write a narrative essay. Pick a significant event from your childhood and write a creative story. First draft due Monday with full narrative arc.

Panic sets in, accompanied by negative self-talk:

I can’t write like the writers in the textbook. . .
I don’t know how to start. . .
I don’t know how to conclude. . .
I’m too embarrassed to ask a stupid question. . .
I’m bad at punctuation. . .
I’m bad at spelling. . .
I’m bad at everything. . .
I’m a lousy writer. . .
I’m a lousy person. . .
I’m such an idiot. . .
Nothing significant has ever happened to me. . .
I am not significant. . .

Something happened between being the child who tried anything without a care in the world, to being paralyzed with fear of making a mistake, and it might take some years on an expensive therapist’s couch to figure out what. So what do you do in the meantime?

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Pablo Picasso

For the next few weeks, we’re going to focus on ways to unlock our creativity. What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Nothing – and everything. Even if you are writing an argument paper for Composition or a recipe for culinary class, it is still considered a creative act. Artists are not just painters or sculptors or novelists, but chefs and welders and landscaper designers. Everyone was born creative, but most of us were educated, scolded or guilted out of it. Once we relocate that creative child and give him or her permission to experiment without worries of judgment, shame or embarrassment, great things begin to happen. We realize we can compose a mighty fine narrative essay for Comp class. We can write a nice poem or story for Creative Writing class. We can even create the best darn recipe for quadruple- chocolate-caramel-stuffed- layer cake EVAH!

Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness . . . . I do know it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.
Aaron Copland


Before you jump into your next assignment, take ten minutes and just write. It doesn’t matter what you write, just start writing. Write your very first memory. Write about what inspires you. Write about your flat tire. Write about kindergarten class. Write about a bad hair day. Three pages, just for your eyes. Share your experiences in the comments.