When this happens to me, I find it helps to take a long walk outdoors. Why does walking in nature break down this wall? I think I found the answer between the pages of my much-marked copy of Dr. Shelley Carson’s book, Your Creative Brain. In it, she notes that studies into the effect of natural beauty on the brain shows that spending time in nature “releases endogenous opioids that increase positive mood and decrease cognitive inhibition.”
In an Internet interview with David Van Nuys, Ph.D (http://www.shrinkrapradio.com/253.pdf), Dr. Carson elaborated on this effect: “[When you] walk in an area of natural beauty like woods or a park, what you’re doing is defocussing your attention because there’s so much beautiful, natural stimuli around you that you’re not focusing on one particular thing. This is going to put you in a disinhibited state that allows creative ideas to feed forward.”
I’ve also read that another aspect to why walking may be so soothing to creative stress is because walking requires a rhythmic, repetitive motion. As I understand it, rhythmic, repetitive motion distracts the left brain and frees the right brain to generate new ideas.
This idea-generation effect is borne out by the experience of some of the world’s most influential artists. Beethoven claims he wrote music in his head while walking around Vienna, which he did every day, regardless of the weather. Henry David Thoreau put it, “I think the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
How about you? What do you do when you hit a creative wall?