I have a new word to add to my word pool~you guessed it~”moodling.” Not only do I like the sound of it, I like the definition too. It means (according to author Brenda Ueland, in her book If You Want to Write) “long, ineffecient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering.” I’d love to become more expert in all those things, so I’m happy to hear Ueland say that this ability to “moodle” is essential for a productive imagination.
Inspiration comes slowly and quietly, Ueland continues. It comes in long walks, in lazy days spent gardening or knitting, or early mornings baking bread, it comes from sitting at the piano and really listening as you play through a sparkling passage in a Mozart Sonata. In doing these things, in “moodling” along in a carefree way, the imagination begins to bubble and boil in a natural process that Anne LaMotte calls “composting.” You can’t will yourself to have inspired, creative thoughts. They will come to you, however, if you let your mind wander while your body engages in some other enjoyable activity.
Julia Cameron, creator of The Artist’s Way, agrees. “An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An Artist requires the healing of time alone. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted.” Certainly this is the idea behind Cameron’s advocacy of the Artist Date, a time you spend alone doing something of your choice to recharge your creative batteries.
I have experienced this concept in action many times, as I’m sure most of you have. I can be feeling completely overwhelmed by work or family resposibilities, my creative juices completely dried up, and I sink into a hot bath, light my favorite candles, put on some Chopin or Debussy, and slowly relax into the warmth and serenity. Suddenly, the perfect first line of a poem pops into my head, or I remember an incident from my childhood that could be the basis for a fascinating and funny story, or the music reminds me of a night spent with my first love that just begs to be written about. Would my imagination have been ignited so handily if I had been at my computer, hands poised on the keys, waiting for inspiration to strike? Probably not.
I’ve discovered too, that if my creativity is engaged in one outlet, it seems almost transferable to my writing. Spending time at the piano is one of the ways I get inspired to write~not necessarily at the exact moment I’m playing, but later on, when the music has had time to sift through my soul, blossoming in my mind and spirit. Playing music requires use of different parts or your brain than writing does, and it involves a completely different mind-body connection, one that seems to invite creative thought to flourish.
But I’m not good at making time for moodling. My “to do” list is always so long, that I feel terribly guilty if I take time out for anything that isn’t seemingly productive toward accomplishing the long list of tasks I’ve set for myself. Even with this validation from Ueland, Cameron, and LaMotte, I’ll find it hard to set aside my Puritan work ethic long enough to moodle my way toward recharging my imagination. But, for days now, I’ve been craving a good, long walk, just aching to feel my feet pounding the pavement, to set my legs striding briskly down the “big hill” at the park, or even (darn this winter weather!) clock off a few rounds at the local mall. Could this urge be more than my sedentary body nudging me to get moving? Perhaps it’s my creative consciousness, desperately in need of an opportunity to ferment some marvelous new ideas? Hmmm, perhaps I’d better lace up my Reeboks and moodle along, give my imagination some time to spread to its wings.
How about you…what are your favorite ways to moodle?