Boost Creativity By Mary Jaksch How often do you manage it? That amazing creative flow. The one that electrifies, excites and exhausts you all at once. That leaves you out of breath even though you’re sitting down at your laptop. It’s like your fingers have their own story they’re desperate to get down. Ideas form effortlessly. Words fly onto the screen. Creative genius fills your page. You feel incredibly satisfied, creatively gratified. Your innermost thoughts perfectly crystallized. Ah, delicious! But how often do you manage that? How much more familiar is the feeling of trying to wrestle your half-formed ideas from a bowl of gloopy jelly, straining for coherence? Wishing you could just put your jumbled thoughts down in even half-decent sentences? Oh, so frustrating! Relax. There is an answer. Expert writers and bloggers are exactly the same as you. Honestly. They’ve simply found a secret that unlocks their creativity. One that puts them in control of putting their brilliant ideas into words – beautiful, inspiring, moving words. And their secret will absolutely work for you too. Come join their creative world, they’d love to see you there. Leo Babauta Leo is famous not only as the creator of one of the most highly regarded and successful self-development blogs on the internet, Zen Habits, but also for his amazing creativity and productivity. So what’s Leo’s secret? It seems that mindfully exercising may be the hidden answer : There are so many great benefits to mindfully exercising, but the first is that it helps me to continue my mindfulness practice, using motion and exertion rather than sitting. The practice of trying to stay present, of noticing my discomfort, uncertainty, and resistance, of finding gratitude and appreciation amid all of these discomforts … it carries over to productivity, where I face the same difficulties when confronted by a difficult and scary task like writing. I can now see when I’m avoiding discomfort and running to distraction, and I can mindfully stay with that discomfort and even find curiosity about it, gratitude for even having the opportunity to exercise or create. I’ve found fitness, especially when combined with mindfulness practice, also increases my capacity for life. If I’m fitter, I have more energy for work, for play, for being present with my family and friends. I’m not so tired all the time, even on days when I have a really tough workout or run and need to take a nap to refresh myself. Nina Amir Nina lists her various roles as author coach, blogger and blog-to-book coach, nonfiction book coach, high-performance coach and nonfiction book proposal consultant and editor. Wearing so many hats needs a seriously creative approach to helping her many clients : I like to do walking and bicycling meditations prior to writing. I get the energy flowing as I move my body, I breathe deeply as I exercise, and my mind clears along the way. I allow my thoughts to flow through and out. I wait for the most important ideas or thoughts to arrive—and sometimes I ask for the answers, solutions, and aha moments I seek. After mindful fitness, I enter my home office refreshed and ready to work. Mindful movement raises my energy, which gives me the ability to sustain work longer and to feel energized while doing so. Plus, it helps heighten my ability to focus and gain clarity, which makes me more creative. I also produce more—and better— work in less time. I also take a break every hour. During these 10 minutes, I get a drink of water and mindfully do energy exercises. I take 10 deep breaths while bouncing on my toes and allowing my thoughts to release on the exhale. Or I do the Tai Chi cupping exercise. I breathe deeply while doing so and consciously clear my mind. These exercises bring me back into the moment and allow me to go back to writing refreshed, open to new ideas, and able to tap into my creative flow. As long as I practice mindful fitness regularly—daily and hourly—I maximize my ability to produce creative work consistently. And these practices are all the more essential when I’m on a book, blog, or article deadline. Barrie Davenport Barrie is a best selling author, certified life coach and multi-site blogger. For someone with so much on her plate, maintaining her creativity is essential but like a lot of us, it took her a while to find the unexpected answer : Up until a few years ago, exercise was a real chore for me. It was something I did (somewhat sporadically) because I knew it was good for me. But I didn’t enjoy it. I also had some limiting beliefs around exercise. I wasn’t much of an athlete growing up, so I always assumed that I just wasn’t born with good “athlete genes.” When I hit midlife, with all of the accompanying realizations about getting older, I found myself revisiting running — something I’d attempted off and on for years with little success. I learned a style of running called Chi Running, a mindfulness-based approach in which you pay attention to your core, your alignment, and the way your body feels. I also took up hiking and biking, both of which put me in a meditative state because I’m immersed in nature and highly focused when I practice them. These mindful fitness programs not only provide more mental and physical energy, but also they clear my mind so I’m more receptive to ideas and inspiration for my business. In fact, some of these mindful fitness programs not only provide more mental and physical energy, but also they clear my mind so I’m more receptive to ideas and inspiration for my business. In fact, some of most successful ideas emerged on the running path or hiking trail. The mindfulness principles I’ve learned through Chi Running, as well as hiking and biking, can be easily applied to my personal and professional life in general: focus on the task at hand, breathe, get in the flow, pay attention, remain open, stay aligned. When you are present, you have unobstructed access to your own creative energy and inner genius. Mary Jaksch Mary is obviously familiar to readers of GoodlifeZEN but not everyone knows that as well as running GoodlifeZEN she is also Chief Editor at Write To Done, teaches students Zen, trains in karate and still finds space for speaking engagements. For someone so busy and creative you think Mary would have no time for any other pursuits. But there’s one that she simply can’t do without: The problem with being productive is that at times the to-do list gets too long and you can become stressed. It’s like having a background noise in your mind reminding you of all the tasks you need to complete. In fact, this ‘background noise’ can put the breaks on your creativity. In order to clear your mind, the best thing is to do a short burst of exercise. Just ten minutes will do. Go for a brisk walk, a short jog or a quick cycle in the fresh air. Research has shown that our brainpower is at its peak directly after exercising. However, the secret to shrugging off stress and becoming calm and focused lies in the way you exercise. Mindful exercise is the secret to recharging your creativity and becoming super productive. Mindfulness means returning to the Now, over and over. As you exercise, focus on your body. Notice your breath moving in and out, and feel your feet on the ground. Each time you notice that you’re thinking about tasks ahead, return your focus to the breath. As you move, don’t forget to notice your surroundings! Keep your head high and take in sounds and sights. If you make a habit of these short bursts of mindful exercise, you’ll be amazed at how positive and energetic you feel when you get back to your desk. Your creativity will be high and you’ll become extremely productive. Haruki Murakami Haruki is something of a legend. He’s published numerous award-wininng books and is generally considered to be one of the greatest writers to come out of Japan in the last thirty years. In a 2004 interview with Paris Review, he put a lot of his creative genius down to one surprising thing : When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit, and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity. Jonathan Fields Jonathan Fields’ creativity is many faceted. A best selling author, blogger and founder of The Good Life Project, he’s a creative force for good in the world. And he had no doubt in an article for Fast Company what the secret to that creativity was: The physical state of our bodies can either serve or subvert the quest to create genius. We all know this intuitively. But with rare exceptions, because life seems to value output over the humanity of the process and the ability to sustain genius, attention to health, fitness, and exercise almost always take a back seat. That’s tragic. Choosing art over health rather than art fueled by health kills you faster; it also makes the process so much more miserable and leads to poorer, slower, less innovative, and shallower creative output. Sally Koslow Authoress Sally Koslow has written four books, has taught at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College and is on the faculty of the New York Writer’s Workshop. But way back when she was just starting out, she told Health how she stumbled upon the secret to creativity while writing her first novel : Not far into the process, a curious thing started happening. During morning runs, ideas for the book began appearing in my mind like Internet pop-ups. I quickly became Gretel in sneakers, scooping up metaphors, snippets of dialogue, and even fully hatched plot twists, which I couldn’t wait to weave into my narrative the minute I returned to my computer. Just six months later, I finished and sold my first novel, Little Pink Slips. We can all recite the multiple benefits of exercise. It jump-starts good moods and protects us from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, back pain, obesity and certain kinds of diabetes. (Oh, and not to mention the uplifting effects it has on our butts.) But that it’s also an express lane to creativity – who knew? Whether your goal is to redecorate your living room, write a report at work, or paint a portrait, working out can deliver fresh ideas and inspiration almost by osmosis. Dragos Roua Dragos is a man of many talents. An author, entrepreneur and blogger (his blog is consistently mentioned in top 100 self-improvement lists over the internet) when he’s not coding on some super secret project, he’s running ultra-marathons. However Dragos discovered that you don’t have to go far and fast to reap the benefits of increased creativity: Every time I hit a roadblock in some process (being it business or creativity), one of my first options is to stop whatever I’m doing in the moment and go out for a run. Almost always, after going for that run, I come up with some sort of a solution, or a workaround or even with an unexpected, hard-to-see-at-a-first-glance resolution. Running detaches me from the pressure of the daily grind, frees my mind and in that new, refreshed context, I am more flexible, more creative. In a way, the blocked energy that prevents me from going from point A to point B is being burned by running. So, it’s not only calories that you’re burning when you work out, but also roadblocks, dead ends and invisible residue from clogged mental pipes. Athena and Demice Athena and Demice run the first fitness and spiritual studio in Hong Kong that offers trainings on mindful exercises. They follow the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh and devote themselves to promote well-being through mindful exercises. To them, mindfully exercising is essential for creativity: Breathe in and breathe out. We keep breathing from day to night. Although we take between 8,640 and 17,280 breaths a day on average, are you ever aware of your breaths in daily lives? Do you even communicate with your own body? Mindful exercise is an act of observing your flow in order to maintain your well-being. It brings you to focus on the present moment, so that you can be conscious of what you are doing with a calm mind. You can feel your body’s conditions, muscles movement, and emotional flow peacefully and consciously during mindful exercises. When you are calm and relaxed, your creativity and productivity naturally reveal themselves. About the author Laura Tong maintains that the best ways to stay creative is to learn to say ‘no’ to non-essential things that drain your time and energy. Grab Laura’s free cheat sheet: 5 Simple Guilt-Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict).