Cycle 2.3: Creative Cycles–The Rhythm Method

Woman Carrying Water by Leslie Frances

“Woman Carrying Water,” by Leslie Frances, Innisfree, Lake County, Northern California, clay sculptur.

Column by Janet Riehl with Stephanie Farrow

I got rhythm, I got music. I got my [work].
Who could ask for anything more?

by George & Ira Gershwin

Runners know it as “hitting stride.” Musical combos know that the drummer drives the beat. Painters know that rhythm and recurrence are the guidelines of good composition. Dancers know that without rhythm, they’ll fall. Actors, storytellers, and comedians know that it’s all about the rhythm of pacing and timing to reach the audience. The heart knows that a syncopated rhythm spells trouble.

Creatives know that to come to terms with the cycles that surge through our lives, we must study our rhythms. Only then can we learn how our rhythms are formed and the most skillful way to respond to them.

In this final “Cycles” post we’ll discuss two of these skillful means. The first exercise is linear and logical. This is our left brain at work. The second exercise draws strongly on our emotional and intuitive worlds to include our right brain.

Method 1: Logging Your Day (Left Brain)

Logging or simple listing is a familiar activity if you’ve tried to manage your time better or sought to recall what you put into your mouth. Don’t make logging any harder than you need to. Nothing fancy, okay?

1) List what you do each hour or short chunk of the day. Were you writing? Answering email? Reading? Researching? Playing solitaire? Watching television? Walking? Eating? Washing the car? Paying your bills? Chatting on the telephone?

2) How much time did each activity take? Keep track without judgment.

3 ) Choose a time to review the log. Study the list and analyze what category it falls into. Survival (like paying bills and eating)? Mindless procrastinating (like playing solitaire because you are bored)? Relaxing or resting to recharge (like walking)? Creative forward movement (like writing, reading, researching)?

4) Notice which activities gave you pleasure. Which ones moved you further and which hindered your goal of being a working writer?

5) How do internal and external factors affect your rhythms? Do your inner and outer worlds mesh or snag each other?  Without enough exercise, or sleep, or emotional satisfaction, or good nutrition what happens to your mood, health, and creative productivity?

6) Shift your schedule. Decide which activities you’ll stop doing or start doing. Which ones will you do more of or less of?

Method 2: If you are conflicted: Cross-Hand Dialogue (Right Brain)

You’ll find the complete description of cross-hand dialogue in Lucia Capacchione’s fine book “The Power of Your Other Hand: A Course in Channeling the Inner Wisdom of the Right Brain”  (

Briefly, here’s how:

1)  Assemble these tools: large paper (butcher paper or newsprint is good) and crayons. These are optional, but allow you greatest freedom.

2)  Draw a line down the center of the page. On one side you’ll write with your dominant hand (the hand you write with and use most actively). On the other side you’ll respond with your non-dominant hand.

3)  Choose a question you want to know more about. For instance: I feel in conflict over the things I must do and my writing. Help!

4)  Pose the question with your dominant hand. Reply with your non-dominant hand and so forth until you come to a resolution within you.

5)  When you write with your non-dominant hand, write boldly. Don’t be concerned, even if you can read it then. You can use what I call “inter-linear translation” later by going back and clearly printing what’s written. But knowing what’s written isn’t what’s most important. You know it in your gut. Writing with the other hand draws forth strong emotions, thus making your conflict more clear and the resulting resolution more possible.

Make friends with your rhythm and don’t sabotage it. In entering new territory by setting a new goal or solidifying a new habit, be patient. Slow progress works. Eventually, the rhythm method keeps your creative life in balance.

This third post is the last one in “Cycles.” See: 2.1 Creative Cycles (February) and 2.2 Creative Cycles: Balancing Act (March )to read the complete series. See the Creative Catalyst archive at:


Pose ideas for future cycle themes; and join in the dialog in the comment section below.

Go to to sign up for a free download of a 10-minute audio from “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music.”




3 responses to “Cycle 2.3: Creative Cycles–The Rhythm Method

  1. I love your articles for the Telling Herstories log. I read and re-read them constantly. They are a big source of inspiration for me, taking me by the hand and leading me to my well spring of joy, my writing desk.
    There is a book on my shelf (I have hundreds like every other lover of words!) entitled What Brings You To Life? My answer to that is quite simply writing — attempting to craft feeling and meaning from a carefully strewn set of words. I love reading but find that I get through books very slowly, since I seem to be psychologically unable to finish a page without running to my notebook wit a new idea. Mind you that is on the good days, the days when the Muse comes to call.
    And then there are the dry days…and they seem to happen more often than the fertile times. They are the days when I wonder why I bother, and what makes me think that I have anything of interest to say, or even, oh goodness, anything at all! On those heavy, dank days it feels almost as if I have been struck dumb. Then I don’t want to get dressed or to meet with anyone. They are the days when I decide to turn back to my crafts — knitting or spinning or embroidery, as these require virtually no thought at all.
    Always it seems as if I am fighting against these 2 streams in my life. But recently I have begun a new experiment, based on my reading of The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler where the author writes about setting intentions. And so I am running my own little experiment and setting my intention for the year and my intention is this — to find the way back home to my first love and lust for words, to discover the time and space to sit and write my way home. Following your thread on this site helps to orient myself towards that which brings me to life, towards my own north star. Thank you!

  2. Edith,
    I’ve been loving our email exchange. Thanks for posting this rich comment.
    Writing is nurturing and healing for you. Do it now matter what.
    If you Google “Riehlife creative/creativity” you’ll find more articles from my site.
    We each post once a month on a calendar slot.
    Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You’re an excellent writer. I can tell that just from this comment.
    Janet Riehl

  3. Hi Janet, I am unable to find the March post:
    “This third post is the last one in “Cycles.” See: Creative Cycles Keynote (February) and Creative Cycles: Balancing Act (March )to read the complete series. See the Creative Catalyst archive at:
    Thank you, Lindy

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