We all think we have it, but often we’ve been gazing at the view from the same perch for so long, we think that’s the only way the world looks.
We do this with big things — like family relationships, geopolitical opinions, and music. We think about perspective metaphorically (unless we are a visual artist such as a photographer or a painter). But like many metaphorical turns of language, “perspective” started out as a literal condition, first. And sometimes a literal interpretation is the most effective way to achieve results.
My goal with this blog — as conservative as it might be — is to have a new article published every 2 weeks. I try to find a mental place where I am drafting at least one idea for future development, every week. I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve, because I don’t want to find myself up against a deadline with nothing to deliver. Some weeks I am more successful than others. I simmer with ideas and connections for days in a row. During these windows of inspiration my folder of scribbled notes swells awkwardly with all different sizes of paper. Post-it notes, the corners of notepad pages, the backs of leaflets, slips strewn with arrows and adorned with marginalia. I’ll save countless drafts and outlines to my online folders. Looking at what I’m producing, I’ll feel like I have more material than I need for the next six months.
But not all the time. Other weeks, I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel. Nothing is there. I can blame this on not doing what Julia Cameron calls filling the well or what I’ve called composting. This would be part of the truth. But if I’m being honest, a lot of the time my lack of creativity stems from laziness. And strangely, if I’m not writing, then I’m not writing anything insightful or brilliant, either.
I like to deal with my un-creative funk by shaking my habits until pieces come loose. For example, by changing where my body is.
This week, I spent a morning writing from the cozy nest of my bed. Yes, in my PJs. I got up at the appropriate time, and had breakfast. I even brushed my teeth and combed my hair. And then — because I work from home and have this much control over my schedule — I took off my shoes and climbed back into bed. It was snowing and sleeting outside, the perfect weather to be a hibernating bear. Yet while the bear would have only slept, I brought my laptop into the den with me. And began to write.
We’ve all developed daily routines. What we like to eat for breakfast, where we put our toothbrush, how often we check our email. I know I have a favorite place to sit at the table, and I bet you do, too. Also, your desk probably faces the same way every day. Am I right?
I tend to sit in the same work space most days. Until I notice that I’m sinking in gurgling mud, unable to extricate myself. Occasionally, I pack up, take my work to the library, or to a coffee shop. When the weather is nice (not this week), I sometimes go to a public park.
Not always, though. Sometimes I literally get up, walk around the table, and sit across from my habitual spot.
The new seat feels really weird at first. I notice absurd details, like the speck on the wall, or the dumpster-diver out in the alley with a bicycle trailer piled high with rubbish. The light is different. My body feels different in space.
That can be all I need. With no conscious effort, I am thinking off the beat, and my work is an altered creature.
One of my favorite nerd-destinations online is the Etymological Dictionary. Etymonline describes the history of “perspective” as follows:
“(n.) late 14c., ‘science of optics,’ from Old French perspective and directly from Medieval Latin; from Latin past participle of perspicere ‘inspect, look through, look closely at.’ Sense of ‘art of drawing objects so as to give appearance of distance or depth’ is first found 1590s, influenced by Italian prospettiva, an artists’ term. The figurative meaning ‘mental outlook over time” is first recorded 1762.’ [emphasis added]”
Perspective is, at root, seeing with our eyes. Looking through. Everything else is literary decoration.
The next time you feel like you’re in a rut, try shaking things up by physically exploring the world from another angle. You could discover galaxies… and all you had to do was move your chair.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a rut?