Creative Flow: What’s Your Ritual


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My favorite time at airports is just before sunrise. I crave the calm and quiet that veils before propellers crank and jet engines roar. The green and white glint of the airport’s rotating beacon is, for me, a reminder of what a gift it is to wake and experience another day. No matter how many times I see the first flush of purple and blue hues, I still get goose bumps on my arms.

Equally spectacular, is the view from an airplane after takeoff at the break of dawn. It’s as if the opaque shroud of darkness that weighs on the horizon becomes sheer, allowing golden light rays to highlight where the sky meets earth. Shortly after, an explosion of yellow, pink and orange spark and warm the sky; casting a glow like flames from a log fire. Interpretations of the vibrant colors are written, photographed and painted, but no matter how beautiful the re-creation, I’ve yet to see any rendition that captures the sun’s magnificent color wheel. Daybreak, the moment when everything is fresh and anything is possible. Which is probably why I had an epiphany last week while flying.

Have you ever known something about yourself, an awareness you’ve sensed but never quite understood? Until a moment when that sixth sense transforms into a cognitive, tangible thought and brings you closer to understanding the essence of who you are and how you’re inspired. The same sort of knowing I experience when I find things I had no idea I was looking for. Let me give you an example.

Every time I get on an airplane, I’m flooded with creative energy. So much, in fact, my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with the flood of ideas.

Just like toggling a light switch, once the cabin door closes on a flight, anything that was on my mind, shuts off. My breathing slows and an unwavering calm settles in my body. The only explanation I can figure is this metamorphosis must have come from years of being a pilot. Conditioning, that installed an automatic pause function in my psyche that switches from ground mode–the interruption of whatever is knocking around in my head––and flips my mindset switch to flight mode––the sort of focus that is required to fly a jet, manage passengers and a cockpit. A ritual. The strangest part is that it’s taken 30 years for me to become aware of this innate process. Perhaps, while in the middle of life––writing, piloting, family, and relationships––I missed the runway while searching for the airport. I’m assuming when the cabin door closes, their must also be a compartment that simultaneously shuts in my head. One, that holds the trials of the day at bay, until my feet hit ground again.

Even though now I ride in the cabin more then I commandeer a seat in the cockpit, the process of boarding a plane still ignites a focus so intense, that even snoring seatmates, screaming babies, kids with restless kick-the-back-of-your-seat syndrome, and travelers who recline so I can barely type on my laptop, can’t shake my concentration. At times, when I’m alone in the cabin, the creative juices flow two fold. How lucky I am. Add this skill to the list of unforeseen benefits of being a career pilot. Completely aware, I now use every minute I’m on airplanes to download creative mojo and transform the flow into words for my stories, blogs, and newsletters. Since, in these moments, I feel as if I’m the only person in the universe.

Do you have a ritual? One you might not have realized? A place where you focus so specifically? Where the essence of what you search for, unfolds?

I think this skill is innate in all of us. A state of mind where worries fall away and we’re able to discover the true nature of our uniqueness. We are all talented and creative beings. Multifaceted creatures, that if we afford ourselves the opportunity, we can tap into unlimited energy and do whatever our hearts desire. It’s a gift. Our gift. All we have to do to receive the benefit is quiet down, open our minds, and find the ritual which clears our heads and unlocks our passions.

If you get bogged down, remember me. Think of the cabin door; my lesson. How the incidental mind-muscle I developed while flying, was the gateway to the unlimited creative energy I need as a writer.

Where is the cabin door in your life? If you haven’t found it yet, you will. Believe me, it’s there. Just be open to it’s existence.

E.L. Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Makers/Risk

To quote Pablo Cruz: “Keep your heart open…”

aka The Glamorous Wife

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