Unleashing Your Creative Flow
For many years, now, I have woken up early every morning to write for a few hours before the day officially begins.
But a few weeks ago my family and I decided to take a road trip down to South Carolina – and because my daughters can’t seem to make it more than twenty minutes in the car without asking when we are going to get there, I thought it might be best to skip my morning routine in order to drive while they slept.
I was hesitant, at first, about giving up writing for even just a few days – worried that I would turn irritable, become one of those people on whom everything is lost.
But there’s something about driving that seems to speak to the creative process, and as we left Massachusetts, I found myself entering a familiar state – my mind wandering from one idea to the next – and soon the empty highway began to feel like the open road.
Writing, for me, is often about getting myself into a certain mood, one filled with mischief and introspection, until my mind begins to tingle and some scrap of language or half-formed idea startles me towards the start of a poem.
But as I finished the last sip of coffee from my oversized travel mug, I realized that said tingling had descended from my mind down to my bladder.
There were plenty of rest stops along the highway but to pull over was to risk waking my wife and daughters, and I wasn’t sure that I was ready to give up my morning reverie.
It was then that I noticed an empty plastic bottle beneath my wife’s seat.
I could feel my mind squirming with possibility.
But as I began plotting out how exactly I was going to pull this off, I felt the same hindering doubts that emerge every time I start a new poem: What if things took off in a very different direction? What if I got terribly stuck?
Luckily, I’ve learned over the years that working through uncertainty is a necessary part of the process. And so it was, with the clouds just starting to turn pink and my wife and daughters breathing heavily beside me, that I managed to do the only thing I know how to do as a writer – get myself into a hole and hope that hole turns out to be some sort of portal.
Poetry makes nothing happen, Auden famously wrote, and peeing in that iced tea bottle probably saved me, at most, about six minutes. But it also granted me another couple of hours before anyone asked if we were there yet.
And more importantly, it gave me the chance to feel like I was writing even when I wasn’t writing – offered me that strange mix of urgency and awkwardness, vulnerability and alertness, the opportunity to attend to pressing internal matters and experience what can only be described as flow.
Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, was recently selected as a Must-Read by the Mass Center for the Book. And his new book, Then Again, came out last November. He has received awards from the New England Poetry Club and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. He teaches at Brookline High School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and two daughters. www.ben-berman.comSee other articles by Ben Berman