04 March 2016

The Art of Running in Place

"Aspens", by Constance Brewer, acrylic on canvas 2010

So lately I’ve been thinking about creativity, and how mental and physical creativity relate to each other - at least for me. I’ve noticed that when I’m at my most creative knitting, spinning, weaving, sewing—really anything to do with my hands—I’m also having a good day at the writing desk writing poems and stories.

I went delving for research to back up my thoughts and came across this –

New research is pointing to a possible link between bodily movement and creative thinking.

A rich body of recent work has suggested that such metaphors may derive from an actual and intimate link between abstract concepts and concrete experience, and that priming physical sensations can activate abstract ideas.

What if physical experiences not only activate existing knowledge, but also trigger cognitive processes that enlarge knowledge in creative new ways?

Actual physical acts appear to activate the abstract processes that overcome mental rigidity and make new connections—the nuts and bolts of creativity. Something as simple as gesturing with alternate hands, or literally getting out of the box, may eliminate unconscious barriers that restrict thinking.”[1]

Of course many of the research articles wanted to talk about physical exercise and the creative boost one might get from it. I postulate that you don’t have to go for a run or do laps in a pool to get the benefit of enhanced creativity. The physical act of crafting provides the stimulus the brain needs to boost creativity. But crafting is creative itself, you say. It is, but there are also elements of repetition in most crafting that leads to an often zen-like mental state. 

In knitting it’s the stitches of the pattern, in weaving it’s the rhythmic back and forth of the shuttle, in lino block printmaking it’s the continual cutting away of small pieces of lino from the whole. All these repetitions become second nature after a time, and allow one to let the mind drift into a higher state.

Creativity begets creativity.

I used to think I was a visual learner, now I think I was mistaken, that I was a more kinesthetic learner, hence all the doodling in the margins of notebooks and clicking my pen and bouncing in my chair. I had to be engaged in activity before my brain switched fully on.

Some experts equate the benefits of crafting-induced flow with the experience of meditation. 

Being involved in any meaningful creative task that requires using your hands, according to physician- writer team Carrie and Alton Barron, can help elevate your mood, stimulate your senses, and foster internal well-being.” [2]

I come up with my better poems when engaged in the simple act of weaving, or knitting. By putting my body on autopilot, I find I can engage my brain in a more meaningful way. Without the risk of tripping over my feet and face planting. How about you, what kinds of activities engage your creative side? 

"In Place" by Constance Brewer, watercolor, after a painting "Vanguard"by artist Stephanie Law


Lisa Goyne said...

That was really interesting, Constance. I enjoyed reading about your creative process and how being creative in one form often leads to creativity in other areas for you. That's pretty cool, and something I'm going to pay more attention to in myself.

Loved your artwork too, especially that second piece. Your variety of hobbies and talents are very inspiring. Thanks!

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson said...

Let me begin by thanking you for including some of your artwork here. I love seeing another side to you since it's the poet in you with whom I'm most familiar. Now about creativity - physical and mental. Interesting topic, one I'd like to read up on some more. Doing something physically, like taking photos outside or hiking through the woods, always gets me into a state of mind that is more open, one that sprouts ideas for all kinds of things. My morning walk with our dogs does the same thing for me and I always feels off and not as sharp if I miss that walk for some reason. Cooking, the acts of chopping and stirring, is a great time for me to muck around in all sorts of ideas. I'm not a crafter, so I have to look at other activities that have some element of creativity to them to link back to your thoughts here. When I'm working with poems, I find that printing my work out so I can physically move it around on my desk and take a pencil to it is an absolute must. I need that tactile connection. And I do my first drafts by hand. Again, that tactile connection, the pen and paper, directs my flow in a very different way than the keyboard. When I get stuck on something, I often pick up my camera and look around for goofy details that no one else would really think of taking a picture of. Somehow, that is a great way for me to reset my thoughts. Hmm. This requires more thinking. And moving.

Constance Brewer said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for reading. I bet you have the same creativity running through your head when you're snowmobiling 130 miles! :)
The problem with having a variety of hobbies is that you never really get good at any one of them. But such is the ADD mind.

Constance Brewer said...

Start by reading up on learning types. I am so not an auditory learner, but most schools are geared that way. I've also found that having two parts of my brain engaged at once - listening to music and weaving, for example - make the creative writing portion of my brain switch on. Music moves to background noise, and I concentrate on the poems or stories in my head. I also know that when I'm editing, I need silence to focus all of my attention on it. Or just the background noise of birds chirping, or water. I think you're right on the tactile connection, for me it's yarn or paint, although there is something appealing about sitting in the woods with a pad of paper and a pencil.