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How a warm bath or shower can help your the flow of your ideas and writing creativity – part 1 of 2

When you are searching for clever ideas or trying to solve a problem, one of the best things you can do is take a break and take a nice warm bath or shower.

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And as an Executive Escape and Writer’s Retreat, Sirenia Retreat has a beautiful wooden main bathroom with bath tub and shower, as well as another shower in the main bedroom’s ensuite.

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You could say it boasts a bevy of bathing opportunities!

You may have heard that famous story of Archimedes having that Eureka (I found it) moment while having a bath.

Archimedes_bath eureka

Modern science backs up this theory of getting good ideas or solving problems while taking a bath or shower.

Neuro scientist Dr Alice Flahery from Harvard Medical School found that creative ideas are stimulated by dopamine which can be triggered by events that make us feel happy and relaxed. Common activities include having a warm bath or shower.

Another Harvard researcher found that another factor that encourages creativity and problem-solving is being distracted and disconnected and not trying to solve a problem or be creative.

Of course, it’s important to make sure you capture those good ideas and I’ll explore that in part 2.

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I’ll sum up with the eloquent explanation of Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya from the University of London on why we often get good ideas while enjoying baths or showers.

‘For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.’ It’s not until we’re being massaged by warm water, unable to check our e-mail, that we’re finally able to hear the quiet voices in the backs of our heads telling us about the insight. The answers have been their all along–we just weren’t listening.”

Improve your #writing – write initial ideas on paper AWAY from your computer and phone

This can definitely help you write better. Well, certainly get better ideas to write about and express them concisely and clearly.

This is an earlier post I was reminded of when I slowed down and took time to think when I was away at an executive escape/writer’s retreat I was engaged to write about. Access to

Access to screen devices and on-line information and inspiration can be helpful – but it can also be very distracting. I find I am far more effective as a writer when I take time and space to think. Sometimes it helps you create new things – and sometimes it helps you remember important things you forgot in your busyness!

 

paper notebook2

Earlier post:

I’m advising a professional and very busy client who is “enjoying” some forced “slow-down time”.

He is recovering in hospital after an operation. He is in pain – but I’m trying to be positive and encouraging about his forced slow-down 🙂

doctor-cleo

From experience (after an operation for a torn Achilles tendon), I know how you can get lots of great and “deeper” ideas when you are forced to slow down.

You have time to think about things you normally don’t have time to think about.

My advice to my client – use this forced slow time to think of ideas for better blog posts or future presentations.

And to record his ideas on paper rather than on some device like a laptop or iPad or other modern writing “machine”.

and with your phone turned off or on silent!

The reason?

Paper doesn’t interruPt!

If you are writing on a device (on with your phone switched on nearby) you can get interrupted a ping or a message “photobombing” your writing.

This interruption rudely rips you away from your idea. Chances are either you’ll lose your flow altogether – or it will take you time to get back into the flow.

I’ve started this paper discipline recently and it’s working well.

When I’m thinking about ideas – I record on paper.

When it’s time to write – I write and edit on my MacBook.

Writing at Hs

When I record on paper – I sometimes write in a paper notebook.

I sometimes use the “enforced simplicity” of post-it notes.

Writing on the limited space of a post-it note really helps you distil your message!

And when I write on my Macbook, I make sure interruptions are turned off.

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I find writers can be different with what works best for them.

I encourage you to try different techniques and use the ones that work best for you.

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montage words nerd

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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

How typing on a manual typewriter can start the flow of your writing

hemingway typewriter

For writers, fear is not black…or dark. Fear is white… and blank – a blank white page…a blank screen…an intimidating white abyss.

One of the best writing tips I got to help me push through that white wall came from a movie “Finding Forrester” where the experienced writer (played by Sean Connery) advises a young writer to start typing someone else’s words to get a rhythm started. You generate momentum…a push and a pulse…and once you have started moving, the words you type change into your fresh and original words.

This simple technique helped me overcome the paralysis of starting that first sentence and write better and faster for news stories as a reporter. This was not on a manual typewriter, but on a computer – but ‘just get typing’ technique got me started.
These days, this technique even helps me when I need to get started and finish a ‘less exciting but more important and more urgent’ business document.

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That’s why Sirenia retreat has a portable typewriter you are welcome to use to get started. I write on my sleek and light Macbook after I get started on a typewriter. My Macbook is more efficient – but to get started, I love the more physical sensation of typing on a manual typewriter – the slap of the keys on paper, the ‘ping’ when you get to the end of a line and you have hit the carriage level return to physically scroll up the page to type the next line. It’s physical and more noisy than typing on a computer.

I have been a ‘consultant’ to help set up Sirenia as an Executive Escape and Writer’s Retreat and one of my (many) recommendations was to get a portable typewriter to help writers get started.
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Feel free to use the small portable typewriter (not the heavy 1930s Royal that’s too hard to move). Experience the physical joy of typing on a manual typewriter and you may even like to take a few photos that make you look like one of those old-time ‘typewriter’ authors like Ian Fleming or Ernest Hemingway.

#Writing Tip: How bird calls and ‘Sirenia serenity’ can improve your writing

James Bond Birds

One of the best things about my visit to Sirenia Retreat (on assignment to write about and describe the experience) was closing my eyes and listening to the birds. This is something I am usually too busy to do.

I’m still trying to work out exactly why the sound of birds helped the flow of my writing – but I have some ‘early theories’.

1. Tuning the senses before writing – especially using a different sense – hearing.
Most days, I mainly use my eyes – reading, reading, reading, and doing to tasks that require vision – work reading on a computer, house chores, driving etc. My eyes get tired. It was a refreshing change to close my eyes and actively use my hearing to pick out the many different bird calls and ‘pin point’ where different calls were coming from. At Sirenia, I seemed to lose any sense of guilt that I should be busy doing something else. I enjoyed just closing my eyes and actively listening to the many different birds. My theory is that we don’t use our sense of hearing enough. In our business lives we actually block out noise. At Sirenia, you can actively savor natural sounds.

2. The Birds calls helped me feel happy and relaxed and the relaxation helped me write. Birds sound so enthusiastic and ‘chirpy’. The birds at Sirenia made me think of that simple, old Bob Marley song “Three Little Birds” and the reassuring sound of the sweet songs of birds. And, true to the song, I did not worry about a thing – about time pressures or achieving my objective.

3. ‘Hearing’ different times of the day. Even if you couldn’t see – you could definitely hear if the sun was about to rise or set – based on the increase in ‘bird activity’ and bird noise. At Sirenia, you really get a sense of the ‘flow’ of the day and this can improve the flow of your writing. The birds were just part of the ‘overall experience’ of ‘feeling’ and watching the changes of the tide, and the light, and the birdlife.

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The back deck of Sirenia is high up in the trees so you can’t help but hear (and see) the birdlife. As you may know, James Bond author Ian Fleming had a special connection to birds. He would escape the English winter for 3 months to stay at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. There he would find the serenity, space, and solitude to write a new James Bond novel each visit.

Fleming became fond of the many birds around his estate and he actually took the name James Bond from a real person – an American ornithologist and author of a book Birds of the West Indies.

Did you know about the creative beats behind the Velvet Underground?

I Wanna Be Creative!

If you like and respect creative artists who do things differently – you’ll probably love the music of The Velvet Underground.

A band we formed at Queensland University, Eugene and the Egg, is adding Velvet Underground songs to our repertoire – partly in celebration of the 50-th anniversary of the debut album, and largely because the songs just feel so good to play.

egg 80s

I only ‘got into’ The Velvets in my impressionable university years in the 80s. I loved how their music seemed ‘accessible’ – as in you didn’t have to be an incredibly gifted and accomplished musician to play it. Well, it sounded that way anyway!

TB VU

Also, I loved Lou Reed’s lyrics. He was an English Major at Syracuse university I believe – and I thought he and the band were so cool with their ‘sunglasses on stage’ look – and I later found the band wore sunglasses on…

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Champine – Creativity with a Queensland twist

An earlier post that recently popped back up on my radar. Glad it did! Good memories of trying a champine!

I Wanna Be Creative!

Don’t you love it when people combine different things to make something “original”?

On Sunday I went to see Dave Graney play at the Brisbane Writers Festival and he was playing at a place called The Pineapple Lounge – which happens to contain two of my favourite words  – Pineapple and Lounge (as in lounge music!)

As you can see, I’m a huge fan of the Pineapple. Maybe it was the childhood trips to the Big Pineapple on the Sunshine Coast.

Maybe it was the Elvis Movie  – Blue Hawaii where Elvis’s dad ran a Pineapple plantation.

mmmmm – Love Pineapple cocktails. I blame watching too many episodes of Gilligan’s Island. Where’s the coconut cream pie!

Anyway, I always loved the Tiki lounge “associations” of the Pineapple – so you can imagine how The Pineapple Lounge felt like “heaven”!

Tiki and Pineapple shirt – tastefully subtle!

One dude was…

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How ‘removing’ – can help you get things done and boost your #productivity and #creativity

A friend who is a successful thriller writer (and a fellow fan of James Bond author Ian Fleming) sent me a wonderful and helpful article of Fleming’s advice on his writing rituals and how he created the right environment to write his books.

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Fleming was very self-deprecating about his own writing style – but was firm in his instruction on how to get things done and to ‘produce’ novels.

The two key points I draw from reading Fleming’s “How To Write a Thriller” (1962) can be summed up in one word – Remove.

1. Remove yourself from your normal life and distractions and
2. Remove your inner critic – write quickly without looking back and then edit your work

I find this valuable advice as one of my current writing projects is helping promote an island escape called Sirenia where business executives and writers can ‘remove themselves’ from their normal  work and lives and work on and complete their projects

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Fleming’s advice was to remove yourself as far as possible from your usual ‘life’ and distractions. Fleming had his Goldeneye ‘hideaway’ built on the north shore of Jamaica and each year he escaped there for around two months of the bitter English winter. He wrote a novel each trip.

Fleming was a stickler for a routine that enabled him to write ‘fast and with application’.

In an earlier post, I wrote about Fleming’s routine that combined the joys of his sunny seaside retreat with productive solitude.

In this post, I share more about Fleming’s secrets to ‘writing fast’ with forward motion – from His How to Write a Thriller advice.

“I never correct anything and I never look back at what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used “terrible” six times on one page? And so forth.

If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain.”

By following his ritual every day, Fleming was able to pump out 2000 words a day and finish a book in 6 weeks.

At Sirenia, we make sure we have what business executives and writers need to get their tasks done. If you are inspired by the Ian Fleming ‘Golden Eye’ escape experience you can enjoy:
1. the seaside beach and sea environment
2. rooms and spaces for solitude where you can work without interruption or distraction
3. high-speed wi-fi if you need it – plus other ‘tools’ writers and creative types use (like appropriate inspiring and energising music)

We understand what business executives and writers need in terms of equipment and accessories and we’ve made sure we provide them.

Here’s a link to the earlier post about Fleming:

 

how a secluded sun and sea retreat can help you achieve you goals

How a secluded ‘sun and sea’ retreat like Sirenia can help you achieve your #creativity goals

If you have a creative project you need to finish, you can learn from the writing discipline of Ian Fleming (the author of the Jame Bond books).

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Fleming wrote more than 12 novels during 12 stays at his glorious estate escape ‘Golden Eye’ he had built in Jamaica. I used to think the beauty and temptations of such a setting would have been too distracting – until I learned about Fleming’s daily routine and discipline that combined a powerful combination of ‘pleasures’ and productivity.

Swim and breakfast

Fleming is said to have been a man of routine and habit. Yet, he also enjoyed the pleasures of life including the sea and sun.

He would start each day with a refreshing swim in the Carribean in front of his Golden Eye estate. The he would enjoy a leisurely breakfast – often including scrambled eggs. (Fleming infused the James Bond character with many of his personal preferences – including a love of scrambled eggs.)

Morning writing

After his day’s start of a swim and breakfast, Fleming would ‘lock himself away’ for three hours to write – often producing at least 2000 a day. Like many effective and productive writers, he focussed on just producing the words and ideas – not worrying too much about ‘the quality’. He’d just ‘pour it out on paper’ and tidy up and refine his writing in a different stage.

Sun and sea and lunch

Fleming would then break to enjoy the sun and sea with his wife Ann – often including some sunbathing. Then, a spot of lunch and an afternoon nap.

After a refreshing sleep, Fleming would dedicate an hour to review his work of the morning and make any improvements and corrections and then put away his work of the day and be ready for his evening drink.

With this daily routine he was able to produce a new novel in around 12 weeks.

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The reason I’m so fascinated in Fleming’s writing ritutals at his Carribean retreat is I am helping ‘promote’ an island retreat in Queensland. Sirenia Retreat is aimed at executives seeking an escape and creative types like writers wanting a productive and inspiring space to kick-start or complete their projects.

Now, being the true and dedicated professional I am, I will soon personally test the sun and sea and sunsets and the writing spaces at Sirenia.

I am blessed to make many writer friends around Australia and the world and they have been helping me with their input in what helps writers achieve their creative goals. The above photo of the typewriter and Hemingway quote is from a writer friend’s house and it inspired me to buy a vintage typewriter for Sirenia. (I’m loving this project!)

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When working on business projects and business writing projects, I usually remove myself from distractions and temptation (I get easily distracted and diverted) – but I am heartened by how Fleming combined work and enjoyment of the Golden Eye setting. I’m looking forward to testing the Fleming techniques at Sirenia soon.

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If you know of any interesting writing rituals please let me know. I’m also studying Hemingway’s rituals. He also often enjoyed seaside/island settings and would write in the morning and edit/improve in the afternoons.

#creativity – take advantage of happy accidents that seem to fit together

I Wanna Be Creative!

When you create something – I encourage you to take advantage of ‘happy accidents’ – mistakes you make that seem to fit together in an unexpected way.

Here’s an example of a ‘happy accident’ I’ll be using in a creative project. By happy accident I mean, as the urban dictionary describes it: when something unexpectedly good comes from what would otherwise be considered a mishap.

Here’s what happened.

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I was learning to play the ominous bass line from an old song by The Cure called “Other Voices’ and I got the lyrics mixed up with a different song.

A line from ‘Other Voices’ refers to Christmas  (Come around at Christmas..I’d really like to see you) and by mistake I started singing a different line about Christmas from a very different Cure song called ‘Let’s go to Bed’.…’laughing at the Christmas lights…you remember from December’

cure let's go to bed TS_Mens_Black_The_Cure_Lets_Go_To_Bed_T_Shirt_from_Amplified_19_99_Print-617-662

Anyway, the wrong lyrics fitted well…

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Sunday morning #creativity lessons from The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sunday Morning’

I Wanna Be Creative!

Yes, it’s the dawning of a Sunday morning and I’m thinking about and writing about The Velvet Underground’s song “Sunday Morning” – the first cut on their first album released 50 years ago this year (2017).

velvet u sunday morning

Here are my early morning reflections on why this is such a good song and how songwriters can learn from it and borrow from it.

  1. It’s so distinctive –  because of the pretty celesta sound. According to my research here just happened to be a celesta in the studio where they recorded the cut and in their ‘experimental way’ the band decided to add the unusual instrument.
  2. The contrast between the ‘pretty’ celesta and the lyrics of ugly regret of wasted years.
  3. giving the listener space to draw their own conclusion and paint their own picture.

The way I hear and interpret the song it is:

The peaceful dawning of the Sunday morning to…

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