The Power of Juxtaposition

“Simultaneously experiencing two emotions that aren’t typically felt together – such as frustration and excitement – encourages creative insights,” says Emma Young in the July 25 issue of New Scientist.

Here’s some powerful data supporting freewriting, or brainstorming. I love to open a book of writing prompts and let my unconscious mind go wild, not editing or thinking consciously as I write. The point is the process, not the product, but I’ll often be surprised about the interesting ideas that bubble up from the wandering mind.

Seeing a visual prompt or reading a poem that evokes contradictory emotions primes the mind for creative thought. “That might be,” says Young, “because it signals that you are in an unusual environment, making you alert to the possibility of other relationships.” Then our mind starts playing with ideas more readily, seeing the world as a child might perceive it, prestructured. That cord snaking out from the lamp becomes an actual snake, sticking its prong fangs into the wall. The dog bed by the window, the one we call Trixie’s brown doughnut, becomes an actual doughnut, discarded by a distracted giant during the night as we slept.

First I turn off all my smart phone alerts and social media. Distractions interrupt this wonderful daydreaming discovery time by calling us back to our ordinary, orderly lives. At first, as I begin to write, the mundane objects of life weight heavily on my mind. But the writing process itself is a desert wind scented with aromatic blossoms, blowing me toward exotic places. The farther I wander with it, the more interesting the dreams and visions become.


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