How Zen Buddhism Beats Creative Blocks
Don’t get your panties all in a wad if you aren’t Buddhist. I am talking here more specifically about the philosophy of Zen Buddhism.
Ever since I have been following Dan Kennedy, I have been working to the clock, meaning I set a timer and I go. When the timer goes off, I take a quick break and do something else totally unrelated and for the most part mindless (get coffee, pee, do some mobility work for my joints).
That alone was a game changer for me personally. But then, recently, I have been hearing a lot about setting the timer to [33:33], whereas I used to set it to 50 minutes. As a quick aside, the mad genius scientist guru Charles Poliquin told me at one of his workshops that he recommends teaching in 20 minute bursts followed by a 10 minute break because he felt that was the longest that the brain could focus in a lecture type setting.
Ok, back on track here. And while I knew that a famous copywriter named Eugene Schwarz was the one that popularized [33:33], I didn’t quite know where the number came from. So of course, while listening to a Schwarz interview while on my morning walk with the 3 kiddos this morning, he went into detail about a Zen Buddhist ‘trick’ that allows them to never have writers block.
And its all based in routine, because remember from Mind Map, routine is a survival mechanism in itself and routine also allows us to not have to rely on will power, which is a good thing. Will power is very finite and burns up very quickly because that part of the brain (pre frontal cortex) relies heavily on blood glucose for energy, which is limited in supply.
So in the east, they make sure they write at roughly the same time of the day, they make sure their pad is in the same spot and the pen is placed in the same starting spot every day (they leave it like this when they are done for the day, which is a lesson in and of itself that we can use in a ton of different areas of life), they get one cup of coffee, swirl it around and then take a sip.
And finally, they set the timer to [33:33]. They realize it doesn’t have to be perfect; the idea is to just begin. Now, when the clock strikes [33:33], they stop, even if they are in mid thought, because at that point, something greater than yourself is at work anyway, a deeper part of your brain is running with it. If you lose the thought, you lose it, but don’t worry about it.
While you are away for 5 minutes or so, your subconscious brain has been grabbing ideas from the ether and it locking and loading them for when you get to the next [33:33] block of work.
I’ll leave with this. Mozart is arguably the most prolific writer of music ever and he never re-wrote anything, everything was paper and ink. How’d he do it? He would write at a billiards table and he would have the white cue ball, the rest of the table was empty. And between each note, he would roll the ball off of one of the cushions and it would bounce off the other two available cushions and back to him.
Each time, it would come back at a different angle so he had to pay attention with his human brain but his animal subconscious was developing the next note, which he would jot down and then repeat.
Your take away, start working to the clock and then start adding in little things over time like certain pieces of music that help you, etc. Go get ‘em tiger.