THE IDEAS are in the oatmeal

THE IDEAS are in the oatmeal
February 28, 2022 Beth Nyland

To know me is to understand that I procrastinate.

Procrastination is part of my process.

Especially my writing process.

When I was in high school, this irritated my mother to no end. Seeing blank pages instead of a book report, she assumed I was wasting time. Doing nothing. Failing to take action.

Not true, Mom. Not true.

My procrastination is not the passive waiting game played by ancient Greeks. Those creators of old depended on the Muses to inspire their work. Supposedly, one of the nine daughters of Zeus could whisper inspiration into your ear, and soon you’d break forth with a new poem or dance or play or sculpture or even a mathematical equation. That’s cool, right?

Yes. It’s also a myth.

This business of writing and creating stuff is how I make my living.  Real life.

So, I don’t have a muse (though my husband often spurs my thinking).

I don’t have a muse; I have a process.

As long as I know what’s expected—a speech for the CEO, an email about inclusion, a product sell sheet, a vision statement, a blog post—whatever the assignment, my brain needs time to find THE IDEAS. That mental searching rarely takes place at my keyboard because that’s not where THE IDEAS live.

“Wait,” you’re thinking. “If there’s a designated place where you can go and pick up ideas, give me the address. I’ll head there today!”

The bad news: there’s no single address. THE IDEAS aren’t huddled in one spot. The good news: THE IDEAS are everywhere. You just have to open yourself—your eyes, your ears, your imagination—to find them.

It’s like the week I decided to trade my minivan for something small and sporty. But what? Suddenly, Mini Coopers were everywhere! I suppose they’d been there all along, but I hadn’t noticed. My focus was on the crumbs in the minivan.

So, if you’re serious about taking a more creative approach to your work—whether you’re writing a message or inventing a product or conceiving a whole new strategy—step away from your desk and pursue THE IDEAS in their natural, unexpected habitats. The possibilities are infinite, but since there were nine muses, I’ll share nine places where I tend to find THE IDEAS that shape and inspire my creative work.

9 places to find THE IDEAS

  1. In the oatmeal. Add raisins and brown sugar if you like. Eat that healthy little breakfast slowly and quietly … and see what comes to you.
  2. In the shower. Rinse away stress. Sing loud and off key. Let the warm water heat up your imagination.
  3. On the pavement. Whether you’re in running shoes or four-wheel drive, a little motion is good for your mind.
  4. In the laundry basket. Get something done. Nearly mindless work that leads to accomplishment clears a space for creativity.
  5. In the paint. Cover a wall with latex, decorate a box with acrylic, or make a mess with a child’s set of watercolors. Get absorbed in the depth of the color and the feel of the brush.
  6. In the checkout line. Instead of scrolling your tiny screen, study your surroundings. Notice how they’ve organized the candy bars or who’s on all the tabloids. Watch human beings do what they do.
  7. In the snow. We’ve had about enough of this in the Midwestern U.S., thankyouverymuch. Shoveling may be detestable work, but it’s the kind of exercise that occupies your body so your brain can roam free.
  8. In the sky. Look up. Remember how you used to find shapes in the clouds? You still can.
  9. In the cards. Play a game. Solitaire or Uno or Trivial Pursuit. Play for fun or play to win. Play past your bedtime. The key? Play!



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