Exercise Improves Creativity

by Barbara Martin

in How to Tips

Throughout The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron stresses how blocked creatives tend to be stuck in our own heads, and how the antidote to blocking is to take action. To keep moving, to embody the spirit of “Create or Die” is a strong statement, but I think it is true for creative people. There is an inner need or demand for doing the work and we ignore that at our peril.

Get Out of Your Head!
In Chapter 11, Recovering a Sense of Autonomy, Cameron offers yet another approach to unblocking using a simple technique aimed squarely at how to “move out of the head and into a body of work….” Cameron asserts that it is through physical action that we stay grounded and firmly in the present, in the here and now. In other words, and I am putting my own spin on things here, we move forward when we actively affirm our creativity, when we quit navel gazing and start doing.

Exercise A Daily Practice
Seriously, Cameron recommends routine daily exercise—a daily walk, a daily swim, a daily run, a daily repetitive physical activity that moves your body in a rhythmic way and in effect becomes a meditation through movement.

From Physical Steps to Eureka Moments
Beyond the undebatable health benefits, for creative types exercise offers a period of time during which we can get out of our heads and allow our mind to just relax. It may sound counterproductive but how many times have you felt a surge of creativity while your mind was occupied elsewhere doing an unrelated physical task? For example, washing dishes, chopping vegetables, mowing the lawn, folding laundry. Now extrapolate from that to what your mind could potentially come around to while exercising on a regular basis.

From Small Step to Great Leap
By exercising and increasing our fitness level, by purposely moving the body regularly over time in a routine way, we also witness first hand how a regular, routine effort in small doses yields visible, tangible progress.

Too, while the body feels these rewards of process, meanwhile we observe the rewards of patience with step by step practice and repetition. You can’t argue with the small steps of process or skill building when you are faced with – when you literally feel – the physical results.

Once again, the danged tortoise is winning the long haul race. What is exercise but taking the next step, and then the next step, one after the other? Remember the next right step? Here we see and feel the proof that it works.

Sensory Experience Leads to Creative Recharge
And exercise is a whole-body experience, the ultimate in sensory saturation. Using all of our senses helps to fill the well of our creativity – all the better to affirm and access the sensual creative experience of being in that state of creative flow when we hear our creativity loud and clear.

“Just Do It!”
So which form of regular exercise is do-able for you? What step can you take, what micro-step, what can you do now to start, today? Um. How about a walk? In the snappy phraseology of Nike, “Just do it!”

MORE Posts in the Artist’s Way Series

If you found this post interesting or helpful, make sure to get your next Reptitude fix by email update (top right sidebar) or by RSS feed – tip top right.


Leah April 14, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Getting moving definitely helps me unblock and be more creative. I haven’t established a daily practice, but it’s something worth considering.

Eileen April 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Oh yes!!! I have to say, besides the unconditional love and the unbearable cuteness, this is my favorite part of having a dog. He gets me out every day, rain or shine to walk for at least an hour. Definitely an active meditation of sorts.

Rebecca Leigh | Smart Fresh Writing April 17, 2009 at 2:01 am

Oh no. Exercise. My most hated of things to do.
But you’re absolutely right, of course, that action and activity begets an openness of the mind and portal to creativity.

It’s just the doing I have trouble with 😐

Heidi Fischbach April 17, 2009 at 9:05 am

You nailed it, Barbara. I can’t tell you how often I keep finding that my most creative insights or urgings forward have come while doing my slow but steady walking/running laps. It’s almost a guaranteed stuck-buster and mood-enhancer. I have been thinking of a list of “to do in an emergency” and movement, preferably in fresh air, is probably #1.

Thanks for this!

Barbara Martin April 20, 2009 at 7:42 am

Isn’t it ironic that the one thing that seems consistently helpful is also tough to get started on sometimes?

Previous post:

Next post: