How long has it been since you experienced something completely new? What was it? Did you try your first Ethiopian meal or attend the
opera? Did you find yourself in a Zumba dance class or try your hand at abstract watercolour painting? If you instantly thought of one or more new things you experienced over the past week – good for you!
But if you’ve search your memory bank and didn’t come up with a recent example, maybe it’s time for you to benefit from the “power of new”. New experiences can add texture and excitement to your life and forge new neural pathways, which in turn will help encourage the flow of new ideas when you begin to write.
Habits and routines help us maintain comfort and stability in our lives. We brush our teeth, take out the garbage, feed the cat and do the laundry. Our to-do lists seem endless, but they do help us maintain order in our sometimes chaotic lives. We are also comforted by small daily rituals – that steaming cup of Earl Grey tea or organic fair trade coffee enjoyed before anyone else is awake; the two (well maybe four) squares of dark 70% cacao chocolate we relish in the evening.
But in an effort to accomplish everything on our list we often cram too much into our days leaving little room for the “new”. We schedule every moment from the time we curse our alarm clock until we fall into bed exhausted. I’m no stranger to the hamster wheel. Until a few years ago, I awoke each workday at 5:30 a.m., commuted a long distance, worked at a stressful job and didn’t get to bed until midnight most nights. That routine left me feeling lifeless and deadened; there was a predictable sameness to my days with little room for new experiences.
After leaving my job, there was a period of adjustment during which I learned to trade the old structures for greater fluidity. I had lots more time to invite “newness” into my life. The result – a blossoming of my creativity, particularly in the areas of writing, dancing, painting, singing and performing.
Recently I experienced a total immersion in NEW when my husband and I rented an apartment in Paris for two weeks and set about exploring that wonderful city. I loved the way this adventure:
- freed me completely from my regular routines
- plunked me in a new time zone with its inherent disorientation
- surrounded me with a new culture and new ways of living and being
- immersed me in a new language, causing my brain to have to apply my rusty French language skills to every new interaction
- showed me wonders I had never imagined
Several times each day I would gasp “oh, my” as I was awed by something NEW:
- seeing the unexpected – like a windmill towering over a street and a thriving vineyard – both in Montmartre where we stayed.
- visiting Sainte-Chapelle – a cathedral built in the 13th. century that seemed to me to be made completely of stained glass
- walking the ancient labyrinth in Chartres cathedral built in the late 12th. and early 13th. centuries
This was the largest infusion of “new” I’ve had in my life in years. I know that I have been changed by the experience, and that the effects of that change are bound to show up in my writing. I also feel determined to continue to seek out new experiences closer to home.
You don’t need a trip to another country to begin injecting the “power of new” into your life. Here are some suggestions:
- if you commute, try taking different routes to and from work
- get away for the weekend. A few days absorbing the energy of the city or the peace of the countryside can provide a refreshing taste of “new”
- read books in genres you’ve never explored
- try food you’ve never tasted, either in a restaurant or your own kitchen. How about Moroccan or Vietnamese?
- take a walk in a part of your town or city you’ve never explored
- take a part-time general interest course in a subject area you’ve never tried – think Latin dancing, guitar playing, woodworking or collage
- volunteer in your community. Others will benefit from your enthusiasm and expertise and you’ll gain new perspectives and a sense of satisfaction
You’ll come up with lots of ideas on your own. As you actively pursue the “power of new” you will be creating new neural pathways in your brain. When you sit down to write, new ideas will flow from unexpected sources. Your imagination will have had practice dancing on winding pathways in alpine fields of wildflowers, instead of being numbed on the hamster wheel of routine. Happy writing!
Until next time,
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Our blog posts will continue over the summer, but we won’t be offering any more writing retreats until the autumn. We hope you’ll consider joining us for a Day Away to Write on October 6, 2013. The leaves will be just starting to turn – a perfect time for a country drive.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND DRAWINGS IN THIS POST ARE BY JANIS MCCALLEN.