We’re now a good few weeks into 2014, and since most people make resolutions, a sporting New Year’s resolution, getting fit often features on the list of broken resolutions.
I don’t really care about sports (sorry, I’ve tried). However, I thought I’d jump on the keep fit bandwagon and offer some thoughts on creatively keeping fit. Whether or not these should be taken up as ‘resolutions’ as such is entirely up to you and whether you want to feel that sense of failure after not succeeding in sticking to them all.
Often sports and the arts are seen as polar opposites, but actually the professional athlete and the professional creative are not so far removed. An athlete’s body is their professional tool and something they must keep in peak condition every day. Stretches and strict training regimes become a part of daily life even if they may only perform in their chosen sport a few times a year.
The mind, of course, is the creative’s professional tool – the ability to imagine and see things that others perhaps can’t, and then to present those things to others in whatever form is chosen. But it is often the case that the professional life of a creative, in comparison to that of an athlete, is haphazardly organized at best.
How many times have you had a day dedicated to working on a new idea and succeeded in writing a mere two pages, or sketching two lines, at 10pm after a day spent staring at Facebook and wandering around your room in frustration?
Creative inspiration is, of course, a flighty thing – difficult to capture and even harder to hold onto. Like a rare butterfly. Sometimes you do have to sit and stare into space all day to grasp hold of that great idea. But setting out a daily practice to get your professional instrument in shape might not be such a bad idea. So here are some things that I feel might be useful creative training. Perhaps it’s a good idea to think of them as the stretches required to get the mind working:
1. Read. Everything, all the time. Okay well perhaps not everything, you might never get anything done if you read absolutely every word that came into your line of vision. But you really can’t get anywhere if you don’t read and experience the world of work you are engaged in. Reading is equally important for directors and actors I find, as your knowledge can never be too extensive. Also, reading is a great way to gently warm your brain up and start getting it into gear.
2. Write everyday, even if it’s random thoughts jotted on a piece of paper. Nothing is written without a reason and so these daily jottings might come in useful in the future. If you are a writer then writing everyday is probably the best daily practice to get into, it’s like the gentle stretches that eventually make you able to do the splits.
3. On that note, exercise. Stretch, walk, swim, run. Whatever you want to do to keep your body somewhat in shape, do it. It’s not so much the keeping in shape thing but the fact that starting the day with some gentle exercise will wake your mind up and get you ready for work. Plus adding a mid-afternoon break of exercise will refresh your mind when it may be getting a little tired.
4. Remember that other people exist. It gets very easy to lose yourself in your own worlds, forgetting that engaging with other people is often the way you find creative inspiration in the first place. So do socialize occasionally.
5. See work; work that you don’t like, work that you do like, work that you never thought you would like. Then take inspiration from it.
6. Don’t get stuck in ruts. Create a set of exercises that work to get your brain engaged and your imagination flowing with new ideas, so when you sit trying to think of one thing and find you just can’t do it you can move onto one of these and, hopefully, when you return to the work you were doing you won’t be stuck anymore.
7. Push yourself, try doing something you wouldn’t normally do. If something isn’t working try re-doing it in a different style. You might be surprised.
8. Make observations everyday. Writing and directing are about commenting on the world around you, so you really do need to pay attention to it. If you make notes about your daily observations then you’ll gradually have a bank of these to draw upon and shape into ideas.
They’re just some things to think about. Because, as wild a thing as creativity may seem perhaps it does need a little structured training to develop the imagination and get it going.
And now here’s a song that never fails to provide good advice, whatever the situation.
Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen