Keep an outside perspective throughout a lifetime, even if you’re knee-deep in the specifics. Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Find people that don’t know what you’re doing
Most of my friends aren’t writers, and that’s something I’ve struggled with over the years. I think I do need some more writer friends, but not having them helps me to relate to the world in a different way. If people are already intimately involved in your field or craft, you never have to explain your processes or systems in a different way–you never have to break it down. This creates ruts and patterns that fresh language and thinking can’t emerge from. That’s why there’s a certain “MFA writing feel”–because it’s the same personalities working over the same strategies ands information without a big, bold infusion of the new.
Actually physically getting away physically frees up our minds to make new connections. When we’re not in the thick of it, with the same tools, pathways, and furniture arrangements, our brains are able to act out new possibilities. Being physically near the problem just creates the same tendencies. Lehrer also says that students who studied abroad are able to do this well because they were forced to make new associations all the time, and consider alternative perspectives to living.
3. Intentionally create difference
I’m not saying get in a fight, but often in the book Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, he says a change in culture forces a different opinion which can increase creativity. This could be everything from taking a different way to work, to completely changing your work area, or altering your routine. It could also mean just letting an art project or manuscript rest for awhile. Once a different frame of reference is created, new insights can emerge.
Be purposeful in your thinking, even while doing the “insider” things that you have to do.
Being an outsider isn’t just a place, it’s a way of thinking.
How are you maintaining your outsider status while being on the inside?