Do you ever feel like there are so many thoughts swirling in your brain you’ll never be able to concentrate on one? I think many of us feel like that now. There are emails to answer, social media accounts to update, phone calls to return and blog posts to write. Then you have those household chores that need to be done. Many times I have been cooking dinner, unloading the dishwasher and washing laundry all at the same time.

I’ve found that this kind of chronic multitasking has even carried over to my creative life. I’ll be writing, but instead of concentrating wholly on that I will also be thinking about a plot hole I need to fix two chapters back, am carrying on a conversation on Twitter and the dreaded internal critic is telling me everything I’m writing is a stinking pile of horse excrement. In fact, as I’m writing this post I have also been reading new emails, checking Facebook and thinking this post is as convoluted as the Appalachian Mountains. That inner critic, that little voice in our head that makes us second guess ourselves, likes to butt into the creative process with reckless abandon. It’s self-sabotage. We know that, but how do we stop it?

I like to multitask the inner critic into submission. Set that pesky part of your mind to work on a simple, often repetitive, task. Then go back to your creative project and see how much better it flows. I’ve actually been using this method for years without even realizing it. Whenever my writing starts slowing down or I hit a creative wall, I instinctively walk away from my computer and do housework. Vacuuming, unloading or loading the dishwasher, sorting laundry – the kind of tasks I can practically do in my sleep. The magic thing is that the hypercritical devil that was on my shoulder starts concentrating on the minutiae of the chore and leaves the rest of my mind to get itself back on solid creative ground. Pushing the vacuum back and forth, putting silverware into the correct slot, matching socks – there is an almost meditative side to those acts. I also find counting works wonders for me, so I’ll pick up an easy beadwork, knitting or crocheting project. The key to that is it must be easy, stitches you have already mastered or a project that is well underway that you understand completely. You don’t want to frustrate yourself by trying to figure out something complicated. Remember, you’re trying to lull that trouble-causing critic to sleep. If you aren’t into cleaning or crafting you could also try doing things like rearranging your desk, playing a game of solitaire or sorting stray files on your computer into folders.

What kinds of things do you do to quiet your inner critic?

10 thoughts on “Creativity Vitamin: Mindless Tasks

  1. That first paragraph hit home for me. I am guilty of popping around between writing, then stopping because an email notification sounded and checking it, then further distracted by something I spy on my desk. Finally I go back to the writing but often…my train of thought went down another path. Then I read it again very critically.
    You have good points about placing the inner critic into a different place. For me, I have to stop and make a list. I divide it by category such as errands, creative projects, goals and pick one that I can devote the time to .

    1. I am a compulsive list maker too. If I really want to get something done, I write it done. There is just something about checking things off a list that compels me to do them.

  2. I like to record all the tasks I need to accomplish in a master list, then my daily to-do list is only allowed three things on it. I physically hide all the work I’m not currently working on so it can’t distract me, I am not a multitasker!

    1. Putting away the things you aren’t working on is a great idea, especially if you are easily distracted.

  3. Crafting and chores around the house are the ones I also use, and have done so without really thinking about it. Work has me too stressed at the moment, but I’m looking forward to relaxing for a bit next week and see my creativity being sparked again!

    1. I think keeping your creative well full is the key to creativity. When you don’t have fun and aren’t finding new things that interest you, often you’ll get creatively blocked.

      1. Exactly!

        Also, tried it yesterday –> gardening also works wonders! After getting back inside, I sat down and scribbled a short blog post for tomorrow 🙂

        1. Yes, gardening would be wonderful. I saw a quote from another friend on Facebook this morning. It basically said, “You can bury a lot of problems in your garden’s soil.” So relevant, especially right now.

  4. I find that walking and running do the same for me. I don’t listen to music when doing these. I use the time to plan out book reviews or to plan quilts . Amazing how much I can accomplish when walking.

    1. Yes, walking or exercising is a great way to wear out those inner demons and give your brain the room to be creative.

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