Natural imagery exercises have been found useful for unblocking writers and others feeling creatively stalled. And while I don't typically like people telling me what to imagine, daydreaming "to order" sounds like a useful strategy to add to the creativity cabinet.

Psychologists designed interventions to learn how activities using guided mental imagery affect blocked writers. Those studies are now described in detail in the book chapter "Writer's Block and Blocked Writers: Using Natural Imagery to Enhance Creativity" by Jerome L. Singer and Michael V. Barrios (in The Psychology of Creative Writing, edited by Scott Barry Kaufman and James C. Kaufman)

Several different experimental conditions were tried. The one using waking imagery had participants sit in a dimly lit, quiet room and close their eyes. They were asked to spend time visualizing 10 different scenarios, such as mentally producing some lovely music or imagining and exploring a nature setting in slow motion. They then were told, "Now some images will come into your mind's eye. Please describe them to me as you see them."

Participants were led to develop further three separate images, and then to produce a dream or dream-like image and allow it to develop. Then they were to picture their blocked projects, at which point they were to

create a vivid dreamlike experience without actively incorporating their project elements but allowing them to emerge as if they had a life of their own.


They were instructed to do the same thing at home for the next seven nights. And the intervention apparently worked to unblock their creativity and allow them to work with less difficulty on their projects.

Another experimental condition, in a brightly lit room, focused on rational discussion instead of guided imagery, emphasizing mutual problem-solving about the block. It helped loosen up participants, but not so well as the guided imagery experiment.

According to authors Singer and Barrios, then, reasonable evidence was shown that

Exposing blocked individuals to ways of generating and attending to their imagery and ongoing consciousness might serve to loosen their cognitive-affective inhibitions and suggest new avenues for pursuing their goals.

And as readers of this blog know by now, loosening up is a prime aid to entering flow. More ways to beat block another time.

Copyright (c) by Susan K. Perry

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