Cross-training Creativity

Because I am an old lady, I rarely run more than three days a week, even when I am training for an endurance event. I rest one day. And the other three days I cross-train. This consists of varying combinations of Plyometrics, Core work, Yoga, Biking, Swimming, Weights, etc… This lessens the stress on my joints. But, it also has the added bonus of making me more wholly fit. This, in turn, makes me a better runner. Ironic, huh?

I would like to submit that the same is true about creativity. Though it is certain a great part of honing any craft is the frequency with which we practice it, it just might be that we can also breathe life into our work by cheating on our genre, just a bit.

For example:

A writer who studies painting will refine his vision. Subtleties, nuances will reveal themselves. And his settings will become more vivid; more evocative.

A painter who visits the symphony, or another live music venue, may find her work suddenly more fluid, or whimsical, or turbulent.

Encountering expression of an unfamiliar form has a tendency to provoke. To vivify. To inspire.

Here are some suggestions for ways to nourish and invigorate your creative impulse:

Visit an art gallery or museum. Don’t study about the works ahead of time. Just encounter them. Let them speak to you. Be open and receptive.

Learn to play an instrument. It’s never too late. And you may find that when the right words won’t come for your story, picking up the guitar or sitting down at the piano for a bit blows the dust off, loosens whatever is bound.

Read a poem. Aloud. Several times, if you please. Till the rhythm of it…the breath…the silences…work their way into you. If you commit it to memory, all the better. Then you have it at the ready anytime that part of you that creates beauty needs a place to rest and be refreshed. You can always find something lovely in Garrison Keillor’s collection, Good Poems.

Play. Fingerpaint. Buy a can of playdough. Go all Andy Goldsworthy, and create a little environmental art. Compose a poem of nonsense words, a la Jabberwocky (Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…). Cut photos out of magazines and make a collage. This is not for publication. This is for fun. To let your imagination run wild for a bit. To silence the inner critic.

Practice Yoga. I know yoga is a hot button among many people of faith. Approach it like anything else in your life, with discernment and circumspection. Yoga is very helpful for learning to still the mind. And it helps you liberate creativity held hostage by the body. Shiva Rea makes wonderful resources for use at home. Yes, they do include eastern concepts, but she leaves lots of room for you to bring your own faith, or lack thereof, to your practice.

Go out of doors. Take a walk. Occupy a bench. Go for a long, slow drive. Bundle up, and sit on your back porch. It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as your attention is free to soak in the beauty around you. Breathe deep. Pay attention. Expect to see something beautiful. You will, if you are looking for it. Watch the clouds. Listen to the birds. Pick up a single leaf and gaze long at it…

Read a book. Not a book about creativity. Read a story. A really great story. You will be amazed how it will fire your creativity. Not sure where to find a great story? Check out these resources: The Joy of Reading and Invitation to the Classics. Or, ask a friend. Find books my friends recommend HERE and HERE.

Go to the Theater. There is something intoxicating about live theater. The way the actors spin their art right in front of you, til you feel you are part of it.

See a film. Cinema, well done, is a synergy of storytelling, music, painting and poetry all. To find a truly great film, you might start with the American Film Institute’s 100 Years 100 Movies. Or sample their favorites from the last decade HERE.

Visit a live music venue. You pick the style. The important thing is to sit in the room and let the music wrap itself around you…to seep into your very pores. To watch the players interact with their instruments. To feel the energy as a whole gathering of people you don’t know are woven together in this one experience.

Have a long, deep conversation with another creative. Or, better yet, a whole table full of them. The most remarkable flourishing of art has always happened when artists converge. Think of Renaissance Florence, the salons of 19th century Paris, Harlem in the 1920’s. Be part of a mutual provocation society. Be generous. Receive.

These are just a few ideas. I would love to hear yours.

How do you nourish creativity? When you are weary, what revs your engine?

*Artwork at the top of the post by Glenn Grubbs.