Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How To Encourage A Creative Trance

How To Encourage A Creative Trance:

Have you ever gotten so absorbed in the delicious act of creating that you simply lose track of time? You look up, befuddled, and realize three hours have passed, or that the dog has been asking to go out forever.

Welcome to your creative trance—the very best place for channeling the juice that will shape and guide your dreams most effectively. Here are some tips for helping that trance state show up a little more often:

1. Turn off the news and listen to music instead.

The creative part of your self is sensitive, easily upset by the negative stream that passes through the news desks of our nation. Therefore, limit or completely turn off the news. Once you wean yourself of it, you’ll find that you really don’t care what the headlines are. If you live alone, and like to have television or radio ‘noise’ in the background to keep you company, play music, books or poetry on tape, or positive talk radio.

2. Keep your work nearby.

Ideally, you’ll have an office with a door that’s right in your home. That way, if inspiration strikes while you're folding laundry, you can put down the sheets, walk upstairs and do something about it. (I was cooking dinner when I got the idea for this essay.) The Swedish artist Karl Larssen built his bedroom above his studio, with a special window built in the wall overlooking it. So as he dressed in the morning, he could look out his window, study his work and think about it. When Stevie Wonder is on the road, he has a crew member whose sole job is to set up his keyboards and composing system wherever he is. In an interview with The New Yorker, Stevie stopped himself several times to go off and compose when a melodic theme popped into his head, right there in the middle of a backstage dressing room.

3. If you take a break, stay ‘fuzzy’.

There’s a certain fuzziness that comes with creating—a loose-in-your-joints feeling that results from letting the creative flow pass through you. By all means try to hang on to this feeling, even when you need to take a break. Don’t interrupt it with a lot of hard-edged activities like business calls, important decision-making, or reading financial mail.

Instead, drift around, read a magazine, a book, or a letter from a friend, or turn to manual tasks, such as dishwashing, knitting, or tending houseplants. Above all, do not turn on the television, or leave your home to run errands.

4. Always act on your instincts.

This is how some of the best research for your project will get done. Call up that friend whose name keeps floating across your mind; take that flyer that seems intriguing for reasons you can't quite figure out. Don't make your instinct raise its voice—just listen the first time. Then it’s really much easier to get things done.

5. Keep note-making material handy wherever you are.

Strew small pads of paper, notebooks throughout your life. Put them in useful places like your car, the bathroom, and beside your bed, where the best ideas often strike. Use a Palm Pilot or a personal messenger—a neat little recording gizmo no bigger than a credit card, that can record up to a couple hundred messages at a time. Some of them even come on key rings; many cost less than $10, and unlike Palms, they don't need recharging.

Be sure to copy these messages into your computer, daily planner, notes, or wherever the information needs to go.

6. Don’t take calls while you’re working.

Raymond Carver didn’t, nor do many great artists out there. Instead of running for the phone, let the machine pick up, knowing whoever called can wait just a little bit longer. This way your trance can continue to deepen and unfold, uninterrupted, and you can get the work done that you are meant to do.

7. Get out and see other people's work in your field.

Read trade journals, see exhibits or attend conferences. Get to know who and what is out there. Not only will this fill your head with ideas and ways to do things differently, it will give you inspiration on many fronts, including how to make your own work even more distinctive.

You’ll also learn things about your business you simply can’t learn any other way, and possibly find your way to valuable collaborations or business partnerships.

8. Live and work in a beautiful place.

There is no substitute for natural beauty—even if it’s a sunset seen from an apartment on the twentieth floor. Having a view of nature, one way or another, is a wonderful way to keep the spirit flowing through your door and into your work.

If you can’t arrange a river view, put something natural in your surroundings that speaks to you, even it’s a window full of house plants.

9. Indulge in the other arts.

For decades, Woody Allen spent every Monday night playing his clarinet with a bar band at Manhattan jazz club. Authors Steven King and Amy Tan have been known to play in a rock band called The Remainders. Michelangelo wrote sonnets and love songs in his time off, and even Paul McCartney has had exhibitions of his paintings.

Spending time fooling around with other forms of creative expression is not only enriching for your soul, it opens you up to new possibilities for your main creative work.

Above all—experiment!

Here are some fun ways to stretch out and try some new and different creative venues. I've dabbled in all of these and have found each one rich in its own right.

Suzanne's List of Sure-Fire Creativity Inducers


OK, I know… you’re not the “drumming type”. Neither was I—until I tried it. This is just about one of the most fun things you can do with your clothes on, because the rhythm just begins to pour through you. (Even if you have no drumming experience. I promise!) Drumming studios have drums, teach you how, and help you find other drummers to practice with in drumming circles. Great for relieving tension, and just plain having fun!

You can find a group or a teacher at a great British website, African-Drumbeat that lists such for UK, USA, Canada and Australia. Go to


In the last six months I’ve gotten seriously back into dance for exercise—and I find it really gets all my creative juices flowing. I love jazz, rhythm tap, tango, tribal, and just about anything that gets you to improvise a little.

Here are some links I like: is the home of Fat Chance Belly Dance in California. Their video is terrific, and the also sell scarves, finger cymbals, etc., to complete the experience.

Tango is dance that’s all about seduction, flirtation and great stuff like that. I found numerous sites dedicated to tango in different parts of the country just running a Google search on “tango instruction”. Finally, while I haven’t tried out these videos, I'm intrigued by Christy Lane’s videos at