Champion athletes do it and so do creative stars, including Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. Leonardo Da Vinci did it. You can too.
Cross training helps strengthen your creative muscle by providing you with inspiration, a fresh perspective on your writing projects and deep insights about what it means to create. Better yet, it will drive you out of your mind.
Because writing primarily engages the mind, we writers often find ourselves sitting glassy-eyed and motionless in front of the computer monitor or a legal pad for hours on end. When the writing isn’t flowing we sometimes struggle to fit the words in place, using the same set of skills and obtaining the same joy that comes from working cross-word puzzles.
Painting, drawing, photography, sculpting, drumming, improvisational comedy, dance, woodworking and other arts activities can serve as a calming meditative practice. Because they bring our vision, our hands and our bodies into play, they do let us temporarily go out of our minds. When we take the pressure to perform away from our writing minds, they reward us with ideas – brilliant, unexpected, effortless ideas.
They also bring joy into our lives in a different way than our writing does. They force us to look and really see, to listen and really hear, to move and be at home in our bodies. Not only do those creative demands stretch the way we see the world and our writing, they teach us to be in the moment.
Trying something new, something we’re not certain we will be “good” at encourages us to focus on the process, not the product. Not knowing what we’re doing allows us to experience how it feels to operate with beginners mind. We can’t afford tied to perfectionism when we try something we don’t know the first thing about. It’s often easier for us to take risks and go with the flow instead of trying to control our creativity. We’re also more open to the idea of being mentored. These are all lessons that we can apply to our writing.
Explore your options. If you don’t already practice an art form in addition to writing, find one. Take a field trip to a hobby shop, a photography store or an art supply store. Sign up for a class and learn how to make stained glass or pottery. Pick up an interest you dropped years ago because you thought it wasn’t practical. Do something you were always interested in, but never had the guts to try before.
Two excellent places to begin your quest online are:
The Creativity Portal < www.creativity-portal.com > helps you to explore various activities related to arts, crafts, music and dozens of other outlets. Their directory is full of sites that have free tips, articles, projects, and tutorials to help you learn about the activity that interests you the most. General creativity sites are listed as well as those on drawing, graphic design, painting, music and all types of writing. The crafts section runs the gamut from balloon art, basketry and beading to origami, scrapbooking, tie dye, and woodworking.
Creativity for Life < www.creativityforlife.com > is divided into sections covering personal creativity, creativity in the workplace and creativity tools, this site contains good articles on a variety of subjects. The slant here is heavy on motivation. If you need some, this is the place to go.
Do something visual or physical. Do something musical. Lose yourself in the tactile. Write about what you experience from this and how it makes your feel. What can you learn from your cross training art that you can apply to your writing?