I would liken it, in part, to the hours spent practicing scales, arpeggios, five finger excercises and then my pieces, when I learnt the piano. I think in part you are developing muscle memory; allowing your body to do just this thing, whatever it is, without thinking about the why. You are being with your needle and thread, piano keys, the shading in this bit of the sketch, these colours of weft and the rhythm of the weave. You are getting into the zone.
But the other thing that is happening is that the act of doing allows the subconscious to make associations: it resembles when you're trying to remember something, and the minute you stop trying it pops into your head, or a day later, or the following week. The trying can act as a block, but in doing, you are opening yourself to the possibility of something, without worrying about what.
With my tapestry weaving, still very much in its infancy, I am just watching what happens as I work. My fingers are learning the shape of the weft on the loom, my eyes are absorbed in colour and form, I have a sort of plan, but mostly I am learning how to do that thing; how to make shapes, to change colours, to put colours together.
So, having noticed that my weaving wasn't covering the warp threads, I loosened out my tension, creating "bubbles" to allow the yarn to flex at round the warp, shown here before beating down.
Then I realised that my weaving was putting on weight, a diet was needed. I had begun with three colours, one thread of each, to allow a level of refinement in the shading ....... however
So I cut down to two colours on the go at a time, with the odd insertion of a single pass, or half pass in a different colour, just to see what will happen.
And meanwhile the sort of design, shady in the back of my mind, continues to emerge
Likewise, with my stitching ......