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Creative Breaths: Finding Your Writing Rhythm
Anne Janzer -- Membership Expert Anne Janzer -- Membership Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Luis Obispo, CA
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

color smoke representing breath
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Do you struggle to generate creative writing ideas? Perhaps you have plenty of ideas, but they rarely result in finished work.

You might find a better balance by reframing creativity as a breathing process.

The breath of creativity

I encountered this breathing metaphor in a new book about workplace innovation called Fire Up Innovation by Helene Cahen. She writes about the delicate balance of brainstorming ideas and assessing as a kind of breathing cycle, entailing two different thought patterns.

  • Divergent thinking generates novel approaches to problems (inhaling ideas).
  • Convergent thinking entails evaluating those ideas, deciding which to develop (exhaling judgments and action).

The metaphor predates the book — it’s embedded in the language. The word inspire comes from the Latin inspirare, or breathe into.

Creativity isn’t only generating ideas—you muse also assess them and figure out which ones to take further.

Innovation entails cycling through these phases like breathing: Diverge, converge, diverge, converge.

When we focus on one phase over the other, the process stalls. As Cahen writes, 

You can’t do both at the same time! Just like when you breathe, it’s impossible to inhale and exhale at the same time. This is where we often fail.

Writing as innovation

If you’ve read The Writer’s Process, the Muse and Scribe metaphors work here, too. The Muse guides divergent thinking — generating ideas, supplying words freely. The Scribe embodies convergent thinking, refining the work. 

Diverge, converge

Ideate, evaluate

Draft, revise

Inhale, exhale

As with breathing, we find a rhythm that matches our projects, our lives, and our constitutions.

Pacing your breath

Just as our breathing patterns match our activity level, so does our creative process. A fast-paced project may require deep breaths at a rapid clip. Anxiety and self-doubt inhibit creativity by discarding every emerging idea as unworthy, leaving us with nothing to work on. 

We need both phases, in balance for the project.

Reflect on your own creative rhythm. 

  • Do you leave time for deep inhales of ideation, or jump to judgment quickly?
  • Are you more comfortable with ideation than assessment, or are you happier judging and executing than generating?
  • Does your rhythm change based on the project or time?

Recently, I write fluidly first thing in the morning, after morning pages and before breakfast. I feel “freer” when I haven’t launched into the day’s tasks. When I’m immersed in drafting a book, the creative phase spreads throughout the day. 

Within any single project, you may alternate between brainstorming, incubating, and writing. In a book, these cycles may repeat many times. 

Find the pattern that works for you at this point in time. 

Notice your breath

Be mindful of the cycle. When you are generating ideas (inhaling), shut down the inhibitory judgment (the exhale.)

  • When you start freewriting, tell yourself, “I am breathing in.” Focus on letting the ideas flow.
  • When you revise, imagine breathing out, distilling ideas worth pursuing. Relax.

Don’t forget to inhale deeply from time to time. For this, I recommend freewriting—fluid, non-judgmental writing on your subject meant for your eyes alone.

We often go through our lives taking shallow breaths—doing just enough to keep ourselves going. A deep breath can feel invigorating and liberating.

Further Reading

Fire up Innovation by Helen Cahen.

Breath by James Nestor.

Find more ideas for balancing the Muse and the Scribe in The Writer’s Process Workbook.

Cuesta Park Consulting & Publishing publishes books and online courses for writers and marketing professionals. Books are available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats from a wide range of retailers. For more information, visit AnneJanzer.com.

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Name: Anne Janzer
Group: Cuesta Park Consulting
Dateline: San Luis Obispo, CA United States
Direct Phone: 4155176592
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