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Developing Creativity by Staring Out the Window

“I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming, or brooding.”  Joyce Carol Oates

How do you use your time to encourage creative imagination and expression?

In her post If you don’t value your imaginative life, no one else will, author and writing teacher Lisa Rivero notes that some of how she uses her 24 hours each day “might look to the outside world like frivolous fun, downtime, anything but work: reading the writing of others, making notes for future projects, networking with other writers, staring out the window, taking a walk while listening to the latest New Yorker fiction podcast (something I highly recommend), even writing blog posts.”

She explains this is all “part of what Joyce Carol Oates calls the imaginative life” (from The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art):

“All the desks of my life have faced windows and except for an overwrought two-year period in the late 1980s when I worked on a word processor, I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming, or brooding.

Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities that blend so seamlessly together, not unlike reading the dictionary, as I often do as well, entire mornings can slip by, in a blissful daze of preoccupation. It’s bizarre to me that people think that I am ‘prolific’ and that I must use every spare minute of my time when in fact, as my intimates have always known, I spend most of my time looking out the window (I recommend it).”

Rivero comments: “Without this imaginative life, we might still be productive, but at what cost? I know that when I give in to the temptation to pack every spare hour or moment with tasks, as I have during the past couple of weeks, when I don’t build in cushions of time between activities for reflection and creative synthesis, my writing suffers, my mood suffers, everything suffers. I may still write as much, just not as well.”

This sort of reflection and mental refreshing may be crucial for our creative life.

In her article 7 Easy Creative Rituals to Spark Your Imagination and Inspire Your Soul, business visibility coach Nancy Marmolejo writes about the value of taking time to reflect.

“Reflection can be a minute of appreciating someone or something, or it can be a day of meditation and writing. Find ways to incorporate reflection into your daily routine, noting how experiences and interactions help you grow as a creative person. This is great for surveying what inspires you and what blocks you, what attracts you and what doesn’t.”

Leonardo da Vinci had a related perspective on refreshing our bodies and minds, and advised: “It is also good every so often to go away and relax a little for when you come back to your work your judgment will be better, since to remain constantly at work causes you to deceive yourself.” From my post Developing Creativity: Both High Energy and Rest.

For more about da Vinci and Michael Gelb’s related book and course, see my post Thinking Like Leonardo Da Vinci.

Also see multiple Creativity enhancement articles.

Another resource: Julia Cameron Live online course and artists’ community: “As author of The Artist’s Way, The Vein of Gold, and The Right to Write, her bestselling works on the creative process, Julia Cameron is credited with founding a movement that has enabled millions to realize their creative dreams. Julia eschews the title creativity expert, preferring instead to describe herself simply as an artist.” She says about her online teaching program, “Artists have always mentored,” Julia says. “I just do it on a wider scale.”

[Painting: “Paris Through the Window” by Marc Chagall.]

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Developing Creativity by Staring Out the Window

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2011). Developing Creativity by Staring Out the Window. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Nov 2011
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