Ruvanee Pietersz Vilhauer Recommends...

“Staring intently doesn’t help us to see faint stars at night. We can see them better if we use our peripheral vision. This counterintuitive technique called averted vision works because rods—those light detectors in our eyes that allow us to see in weak light—are concentrated at the sides of our retinas. If we avoid a direct gaze and instead look slightly away from a star in the night sky, we involve our rods and thus see the star more clearly. I bring up this technique because it’s analogous to a practice that often helps me come up with creative ideas. Many such ideas come to me when I practice thinking with the side of my mind. If I feel stuck while writing, I step away from my desk and focus on something routine, like washing dishes or chopping onions or sweeping the floors. Going for a walk outdoors in slightly tricky terrain or taking a drive along a familiar route seem to serve the same function. These activities help because they engage the analytical, rule-following parts of my mind but don’t require all of my attention. Random thoughts and wild ideas soon rise to the surface.”
Ruvanee Pietersz Vilhauer, author of The Water Diviner and Other Stories (University of Iowa Press, 2018)