Stepping Away from the Usual Brainwork


This past weekend I painted picture frames purchased at Salvation Army, attached chicken wire to the backs, added embellishments, mini clothespins and binder clips, and came away with three new renditions of bulletin boards.

My writer friends Sharron and Cynthia did freestyle acrylic paint projects that turned out beautifully; Cynthia recently got out her mom’s paints and starting dabbling. Lorilee is always spraying something—pots for her succulents or dining room chairs—and her feet are liberally covered in paint. Tracy cooks, Alison gardens. All of us practice creative arts in one way or another apart from our writing.

Experts in neuroscience and creativity have done myriad tests on the brain to discover how creativity works, including one test written about in Scientific American (The Real Neuroscience of Creativity by Scott Barry Kaufman). The article says, in part, “. . . the right brain/left brain distinction does not offer us the full picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain. Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.”

Don Perini, a professor of creativity who spoke at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in 2015 on creative emergence, wrote a little book titled “Emerge.” He shared with us this equation: Talents + Creative Habits = Creative Emergence.

For us writers, using our talents and combining them with creative habits can mean coming up with something pretty cool. Perhaps a terrific plot twist for a novel; an evocative word in a poem; an analogy to communicate biblical truth; a great lede for a magazine article. Sometimes there is a whole lot of nothing, but that’s fine too.

We call it “using our brains differently.” Sometimes we do so intentionally, sometimes we just know it’s time to do something a little crazy. We glue chicken wire to picture frames. We daub with acrylics; spray paint pots; take walks; make killer desserts; plant gorgeous flowers. We practice creative habits that lead to breakthroughs in our writing. It’s all part of how we live our writing lives.

What do you do to encourage your creativity and your writing life?


4 thoughts on “Stepping Away from the Usual Brainwork

  1. Music has always been a creative outlet for me. In fact, there was a time when I almost chose it as my college major. Sometimes when I’m stuck in my writing, I sit at the piano and plunk out a song or two and sing. It’s fun and loosens up my creativity.

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  2. This year we replaced every square inch of flooring in our entire house and painted all but two bedrooms, lol. (It’s a smallish house, so it was the best way to do it, truly) I am ready and eager to write again now that all we’re doing is waiting for baseboard installers. Lol. But honestly, choosing paint colors and flooring and even some new furniture has forced me to use a part of my brain I usually keep turned off. It’s been challenging and fun.


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