Author Ellen Byron joins the MissDemeanors today to share her thoughts on mindless creativity. Don’t miss her new mystery, A Cajun Christmas Killing, available now. Here’s Ellen: I spend a lot of time when I’m not writing, writing. It may look like I’m getting dinner together or doing the laundry, but I’ve found  that when I’m engaged in some mindless task – and if you ever ate at my house, you’d know my cooking is mindless – I have some of my most creative thoughts. It turns out I’m not alone in this. Google “mindless creativity” and you’ll get pages of articles proving this really is a thing. I found an article in Nature magazine about a study that showed “simply taking a break does not bring on inspiration — rather, creativity is fostered by tasks that allow the mind to wander.” A piece in Inc. Magazine was titled, “Want to be more creative? Do something mindless.” In a recent post on the Chicks on the Case blog, Lisa Q. Mathews shared this tidbit: Dame Agatha Christie herself claimed that she did some of her best plotting while doing the dishes.  Around the time I was thinking about this topic, the inimitable Dru of Dru’s Musings posted a picture from work showing a table filled with cans of Play Doh. I asked her about this, and she said, “Playing with Play Doh breaks up the monotony of the day, allowing you to relax and set your mind free by escaping with something fun.” Exactly.  Photo courtesy of Dru I’m now a fervent proponent of the Mindless Creativity Movement. Okay, there isn’t a movement, I just made that up, but there should be because we often feel guilty when we step away from our computers to do a task or errand or even something fun like play with Play Doh, and we shouldn’t. I’ve had so many brainstorms pushing a shopping cart through Target that I actually thanked them in the acknowledgments of my second book, Body on the Bayou. I’m not kidding. It reads, “And finally, a big thank-you to my local Target stores. I do some of my best thinking aimlessly wandering those jam-packed aisles.” I even wrote a blog post about the most mindless task of all. It’s titled “The Zen of Picking Up Dog Poo.” One drag about mindless creativity is that our nearest and dearest often don’t know it’s going on. They see us cleaning out the pantry or organizing the recycle bin and think, “Oh yay, she’s finally off the computer. I can talk to her.” I’ve lost some gems this way and snapped at the poor person who interrupted my creative process. When I shared an apartment with a particularly chatty roommate, I actually made a sign that read “Still Working” that I wore around my neck when I wasn’t literally writing. Another potential problem is the thin line between mindless creativity and procrastination. I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge when a midday trip to my favorite clothing store is the latter. But sometimes the two work hand-in-hand, and procrastination actually turns into mindless creativity. I ruined two pots when I chose to procrastinate by cooking, then had a brainstorm about my current book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, and ran back to the computer, totally forgetting about what I’d left on the stove. So next time you’re stuck on something, whatever it might be, trying getting your mind off the project and onto a mindless task. Even if you don’t have a breakthrough, at least your spice rack will be organized and your backyard poo-free. Your fearless MissDemeanor again. Forget the spice rack; go pick up a copy of Ellen’s new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing.  Here’s a peek (It’s okay, I won’t tell Santa):  Maggie Crozat is home in Cajun Country during the most magical time of the year. But the Grinch has come to stay at the Crozat Plantation B&B, and he’s flooding travel websites with vicious reviews. Maggie ID’s him as rival businessman Donald Baxter –until Baxter is found stabbed to death. With her detective boyfriend sidelined as a suspect, Maggie must catch the real killer or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noel for her. Books make much better presents than slipper socks and fruitcake. So grab copies now for everyone on your nice list. And on your naughty list, too. Beat the holiday rush. Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called her new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, “superb.” Body on the Bayou won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and made the USA Today Bestseller list. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles; published plays include the award-winning Graceland; TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots. Ellen lives in Studio City with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.    

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