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    Creative Thinking in the Midst of the Mundane

    By Carolina Fernandez     

    "For a parent, it's hard to recognize the significance of your work when you're immersed in the mundane details. Few of us, as we run the bath water or spread the peanut butter on the bread, proclaim proudly, 'I'm making my contribution to the future of the planet.' But with the exception of global hunger, few jobs in the world of paychecks and promotions compare in significance to the job of parent. Joyce Maynard We cannot escape them. The mundane realities of motherhood present themselves at every turn. Upon rising, it's blast off! We're faced with cooking and serving breakfast, washing resultant dirty dishes, wiping countertops, sweeping floors, packing lunchboxes, checking and signing school papers, and initialing bus passes or driving carpool.

    Barely over, laundry stains rear their ugly heads and our next campaign of the hour screams for our attention. Once attacked, three loads of laundry morph before our eyes to four, stray socks and underwear mysteriously jump to the stairs instead of the hamper...and more washing, more drying, and more folding goes on ad infinitum.

    Grueling grocery-store queues, bewildering bills, and time-consuming phone tag continue to fill our mornings. And all before 9 AM!

    Get used to it. The mundane-oftentimes dreadful-realities of motherhood have been with moms since time began, and likely will stay with us for, well, the rest of our lives. There's no sense despairing, no need to wring your hands, no time for wishing them away.

    But take heart. There are tricks to conquering the mundane to keep you from going completely insane.

    First of all, use your time when doing mundane, everyday chores to think creatively. Mindless, repetitious motions like ironing, soaping down dirty dishes, folding t-shirts...things we could do with our eyes closed in the middle of a tornado, present perfect opportunities for us to think of creative solutions to present-day dilemmas. My hunch is that not many of you take the time out during the day to just sit in a chair and think; indeed, the idea--credited by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez, who took a half-hour every day to ponder what he knew and what its implications might be--is highly impractical for most of us moms! Nevertheless, the idea is pure gold. (1) How can you translate it into your everyday reality? Use that time, when you are performing repetitious tasks, to ponder dilemmas, think through frustrations, sort out ill-feelings, and organize your day.

    Secondly, use an "Open Road Strategy" to think creatively. Drive times with sleeping children-buckled securely in car seats and nodding off happily to Raffi tunes and "Mozart for the Mind"-are great opportunities to think without distractions. This practice is endorsed by John Rogers of the University of Illinois, who is developing microfluidic optical fibers, and needs this time to think creatively. (2) Don Arnone, a leader in t-ray technology, also employs this strategy, calling it "an inadvertent bonus of the realities of modern life." (3)

    Lastly, use times doing repetitious exercise as your "Physically Energizing Strategy" to think creatively. As an avid lap swimmer, I often get my most creative insights while swimming monotonous after monotonous lap. I almost never think about the physical part of the swim, such as the way I move my arms or the way I breathe; I've been swimming so long that the mechanics are second-nature. Rather, I purpose to use this time to sort out problems, figure out solutions to perplexing issues, and mentally test out different angles to dilemmas. I always emerge feeling both mentally and physically refreshed, and that I have moved forward creatively.

    May your chores of your day be your pathways to creative genius, too!

    Written by Carolina FernandezRate this article:

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