In my book ‘Pathways through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment’ (https://goo.gl/k360PX), I explore how movement can help us avoid becoming stymied. Writing is a very static activity, especially when working on a computer, often it feels like only the fingers and mind are agile. Of course, it is important to make sure we sit well and take frequent breaks, so our bodies do not become achy and stiff. However, I believe there is more to it than this. From my own experience and that of other writers, I would like to suggest that exercise frees up our creativity and imagination. Movement shakes free words from our brain.
I normally work for about two to three hours and then either go for a swim or take a walk. I always have to have a notebook near, as inevitably a new idea for something I have been struggling with in my writing will appear as I stretch my limbs out.
I am also a great fan of mindful walking. Walking with all my senses open to what is happening around me, to the creaks and strains of my body as it releases into its stride and to the present moment. It’s often difficult to quieten the commentary in my mind: things I’m worried about from the past or the future; and things I think I ought to be doing or achieving. By returning to the physical senses – what I am seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching – I find a way of pushing the needle out of the same old groove in the same old record. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it.
And here is the contradiction: by attempting to stay in the present moment I find my imagination fired. All sorts of thoughts, most of which will prove useful in my writing, materialise. These will inevitably take me away from the present moment, which is where the notebook comes in. I pause, I make notes and then I can move on, once again connecting with the world around me.
For me, this type of walking has to be done alone. It’s wonderful to walk with a friend, to chat, to compare experiences. But for me to be really with myself and what’s going on for me, lone walking is the best. I am preparing to do a long distance walk, St Cuthbert’s Way, with my sister in September, so have been going further than my usual perambulations. It astonishes me how many lone walkers/runners I meet up on the cliffs who have their headphones firmly clamped on. Why listen to music when there’s the bird song, the waves and the wind to charm our way?
Do you have any thoughts on creativity and movement you’d like to share?