How to Get Creative: Surfing the Alpha Waves

Day 25 of the Writesofluid July #wpad blog challenge.

What is creativity? For me, it is awareness and playfulness. Being creative means connecting to a certain kind of magic. The kind of magic you had ready access to as a child but that most adults seem to have lost. So how can you reconnect to this magic where creativity resides? I believe there are several approaches.


There are rituals – like the one at the beginning of Shakespeare in Love, where Will takes his quill, rubs it in his hands, spins 360°, spits over his shoulder and sits down to write. (Never mind that that particular ritual happens not to work.) I don’t have a ritual like that, but I think many writers do.

What are yours?


There are external triggers. At first I was going to write that this blog challenge is such a trigger, but actually that is not quite true. The prompts do trigger ideas, but it is more about discipline and fleshing out an idea suggested by someone else. However, this month I am also doing Writesofluid’s logline challenge, and that – while also challenging my discipline – gets my creativity going much more.

Why? Because I am allowing my imagination to run a little wild (and if you read the loglines on facebook you’ll see what I mean). In a way, this is just for fun – although I hope some scripts will result from it – and that’s the point. I fool around, and as a result I am more creative than if I think “is this marketable, can I write it, will anybody be interested?”

Surfing the Alpha-Waves

I once read that Steven Spielberg likes to get into his car and drive when he needs to come up with ideas, and unfortunately that works very well for me too. (I say unfortunately because it soils my environmental record.) The idea is that you do something that is entirely automatic – and after a certain number of years, driving a car does become automatic – and then your brain waves switch from the daily-stuff beta waves (38-15 Hz) to the slower alpha waves (14-8 Hz) We humans need alpha waves as the bridge to the lower frequencies of the subconscious. And the subconscious is where you find ideas and stories, where the censor has no access.

In theory, any activity you can engage in that is totally automatic for you can get you in this alpha state. Athletes may do it – think of runners after the 15th lap. I guess it is similar to the concept of “Wei Wu Wei”, of “doing not-doing”, but I am not an expert on this. It sometimes works for me when I am gardening – not so much when I’m mowing the lawn (have to focus too much on not cutting the cord), but certainly when I’m weeding. Good thing there are so many weeds in my garden!


There are other “tried and tested methods” like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I worked through that book once many years ago and it did boost my creativity. It gave my writing some purpose, and that in turn teased out some ideas. The “morning pages” in particular helped – every now and then a character would wander into these pages, or a situation, and that would advance whatever I was writing at the time. I still do these pages every now and then for a few weeks – first thing you do when you get up is do three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing by hand (!). You write about absolutely whatever, without censoring. Even “bla bla bla” is okay. It does help.

Be open, be playful

But above all, you have to be open to what is happening around you and inside you. You are surrounded by stories, in people’s faces and voices, in what they say and what they do. And there are stories inside you that may be triggered by a smell, a colour, something that calls to mind a long-forgotten event. There are feelings.

Be open to all of that, play with it, and allow the magic to work.



Filed under writing

4 responses to “How to Get Creative: Surfing the Alpha Waves

  1. This is such great advice. I actually never realized before why my best ideas always come when I’m doing something totally mundane (and usually away from my computer).

  2. Yes, it wass a real eye opener for me too when I read about Spielberg getting in his car to “trigger” the alpha waves. Happy surfing! 🙂

  3. I recently read a book, “The Journey from the Centre to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muses for Authentic Writing,” where the author devotes an entire section to getting ready to right. He had a lot of great things to say about creating rituals. I highly recommend it. Great blog by the way.

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