It takes sheer effort to create thoughts and ideas. In fact, the attempt to be creative and original can be exhausting and result in things like “writer’s block”, frustration and “hitting a wall”.
Some would say that many of us work too hard to be creative, and we need to stop thinking so much, and let what is already in our minds flow out in our writing, words, creativity and actions.
The practice of simply observing and reporting what is already in the mind is not new (but sometimes forgotten). In fact, many great artists have developed their art in exactly this way.
For example, the Expressive Theory of Art simply means communicating the current inner emotional, psychological, or intellectual state of being. The artist is not trying to “think of” new ideas, he is simply expressing the ideas that are already there. Consider Tolstoy’s view:
Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one person consciously, by certain external signs, conveys to others feelings he’s experienced, and other people are affected by these feelings and live them over in themselves. (Leo Tolstoy)
If we quit trying (expending effort) to develop the words, concepts, and ideas in our minds, and instead observe and relay what is already in our minds, what happens?
Since effort to create takes enormous energy, using this energy to release what is in our minds instead of trying to create what is not in our minds could be a transformational experience.
In the field of psychology, introspection is the method of observing and reporting the workings of the mind. Iconic figures like Plato and Paramahansa Yogananda were proponents of the practice of introspection:
Plato may have referenced introspection when he asked, “…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are.
“Introspection is a mirror in which to see recesses of your mind that otherwise would remain hidden from you. –Paramahansa Yogananda
In regard to the art of writing, a key method that produces writing without forced thought is referred to as “stream of consciousness” writing. Basically, the idea is to write whatever pops into your head, without altering these thoughts in any way with conscious thinking. It is an amazing exercise to try to write a story by observing the story that is already playing in your head, without even trying to create new material. As I practice stream of consciousness writing, I find it beautifully but at the same time frightfully rewarding.
If you try to write a story by just observing what is in your mind and putting your thoughts to paper, then you will most likely know the exact feeling that I am trying to describe when experiencing stream of consciousness writing.
I remember listening once to a screenwriter accepting an academy award. I recall the screenwriter once saying that he didn’t really try to come up with concepts and stories , but simply noticed what was in his head and spilled out the information on paper, worked with staff, and helped transpose his thoughts onto film. Remembering his acceptance speech prompted me to start studying this method (it’s strange how an abstract experience like this can stay with you).
And then it hit me. Maybe this is a method that many successful people use to accomplish a great deal of success in their lives. And perhaps trying too hard is at times a fault. Maybe “try, try again” is not perfect advice; and, instead a better mantra is to stop your effort, take notice of what’s in your head and then act on what’s already there (just waiting to be noticed).
It’s not that hard to grasp this concept, right? Just look at what’s right there in your head, express it and do it. It’s so simple–but sometimes there is conflict within a person against this way of being, because there is the belief that an idea has to be conjured up or created out of thin air.
Here are some examples that are possibly familiar to you, where the author used stream of consciousness writing to complete some of the greatest literary works of all time (source: Stream of Consciousness, Narrative Mode, Wikipedia):
IF by Rudyard Kipling (SOC Style of Writing)
Of course, I don’t know all of the answers in regard to how to free the mind, but it makes me stop in my tracks when I consider how I may improve my methods of thought. And I’d like to try embracing the Expressive Theory of Art, the practice of Introspection, and Stream of Consciousness methods in pursuit of living an unbridled life full of truth and authenticity.