My colleague Aimee wrote a great post on creativity and academic work at ProfHacker.com. This reminded me of a book I read about ten years ago called The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron. [she also has a similar book called The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon]. The book describes how to get in touch with one’s creativity by working through various “road blocks” — especially self-critical thinking. One of the recommendations is to make an “artist’s date” at least weekly, preferably daily.
Reading this book helped me give myself permission to do something creative that didn’t have the high stakes and stress of the creative work I do for my job. This helps me decompress, recharge, and be more productive during the times I am doing research and writing. I even know of another women’s history scholar who knits while she writes (she must do it while waiting for ideas to perculate — can’t see how you could do it and type at the same time!)