Writing for a secular website about songwriting, I avoided using God-language in this essay. You can easily substitute “Holy Spirit” for “right brain” throughout the piece. Like Milton in the Invocation to Paradise Lost, I call the Holy Spirit the “Heavenly Muse.”
One of my songwriting books advised me to do physical labor or activity to access the right side of my brain when I lacked inspiration to write. Vacuuming the floor was suggested. Now, I like vacuuming the floor as much as the next housewife, but it didn’t work to inspire my writing. What worked was walking. Since retirement, I have time to walk for an hour a day, and morning is my best time. My brain does amazing things on a walk.
For the first twenty minutes of the walk, I do best to look at the birdies, talk to them, enjoy the bare or leafy branches against the blue sky, or hum a tune from the radio. My right brain is not cooperative in the first twenty minutes. It seems to need to warm up. If I am carrying my notebook (another tip most writer-books give), I will come up with nothing, especially if I try to think of something. Old right brain works in its own sweet time.
It does help to state that I want inspiration on the walk. I say to old RB, “Okay, I know you need your warm-up, but I am hoping to work on this walk. I want a song about a candy heart for Valentine’s Day.” Then I relax, pump the old legs up those residential hills, and wait.
After the warm-up is over, ideas start to enter my consciousness. I stop walking to jot them in my notebook then keep walking. More come. Sometimes whole phrases and stanzas appear fully formed, as from Zeus’s head, only it’s my head. I don’t even try. I almost feel possessed. The right-brain Muse is on a roll, and I would be a fool the rein her in.
Often, when one stream of metaphors, imagery, rhyme or theme runs out, another will start, on a totally different topic I might have briefly considered earlier. I extend my walk, another half mile or so, until the stream completes itself, stopping and jotting now and then.
When right brain has done its work and my walk is over, left brain gets its turn. I usually write songs on my bed with a pencil, pink pearl eraser, and a yellow pad. Left brain has to correct, bring order, and make sense of right brain’s joyful effluvia. This part feels more like work, but it’s still fun.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those healthy-lifestyle gurus. I’m not saying you should walk to lower your cholesterol, lose weight, or strengthen your heart. I’m saying walking can help you tap into your playful, creative, endlessly productive right brain, Muse, or whatever you choose to call it.