Sport and the creative process
Creativity is complicated, running is simple.
It’s easy to romanticize the fuel, self-medicated, and destructive pursuit of the creative. The artist has to struggle to produce good work. And while the art does come from struggle, and has absolutely served as a tool in coping with my own struggle, I quickly discovered that pulling from this well for my creative practice was not and would never be sustainable.
For my health, sanity, and drive to work, I needed to find a way to sparking my creativity that did not leave me emotionally beaten and immobile. I found running-an act is simple and innate our bodies are literally designed to do it better than anything else. While waiting for a moment of imaginative insight can be grueling, I’ve found that through running, by asking my body to nothing more than left, right, left, right, my mind opens and allows my work to be whispered into consciousness.
Running is an art. If done properly, with proper form and footwear, running regularly can lead to many positive short- and long-term benefits. Endorphins released while running lead to natural boosts in mood, circulation is improved as blood vessels are forced to dilate, and raising your heart rate for extended periods of time strengthens the heart muscles and increases the efficiency with which it pumps oxygen throughout the body. But, more importantly, you become a person less taxed by the activities of daily life.
Wonderful and important as this is all, the running is a purposeless act. Few, if any, situations in our lives require us to run, and virtually nothing requires us to run for an extended period of time. Our runs today where they begin and have us returning with nothing more than what we left with. It has no purpose. However, forcing ourselves to perform the purposeless act is the key to jumping between denotative and connotative thinking, or vice versa. It can help us find the moments of creative clarity amidst the muck of the day-to-day.
The secrecy surrounding the creative process is a contributing factor in its portrayal of something near divine. The difficulty in expressing how creative insight functions also allows room for the stereotypes surrounding the “Eureka!” Moment to proliferate. Creativity is complicated, running is simple. The body falls into a rhythm of steps and breaths, letting the mind wander. It is this kind of active meditation that allows you to remain lucid while acknowledging that the mind has drifted, and loosely place where it has drifted to. It is here where creative insights are more easily found. While meditation alone can be valuable in calming the mind and refocusing intentions, active meditation gives space for thoughts to move freely between the task at hand and the subconscious.
Just as you are stretching out a race, and mixing a palette, you prepare yourself to paint, regularly rearranging your headspace before endeavoring to create your body and mind to prepare for the recognition of new insight. While I can understand the romanticized image of an Adderall-fueled creative fervor, hyper-concentration is not the path to the best ideas. For the same reason, a word too many times can cause it to lose its meaning, focusing too hard on a creative problem limits its ability to see the outlier solution. Instead, try focusing on the purposeless act, on aimlessly moving your body through space on the X + Y with no promise of Z- the mind then has the freedom to drift and guide you to areas you may otherwise missed.
While there may never be a fool-proof way to guarantee repetitive, creative success, it only makes sense to people living in our art, we try and mold the stereotyped recklessness surrounding our lifestyle into a sustainable process, and delineate habits that Allow us to perform better. Creativity does not yell, it whispers. Allow yourself to listen as often as possible.
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