Is Your Creative Muse Getting Regular Exercise?

Not too long ago I shrank in my seat while attending a leadership seminar. Two of the speakers said their secret to a creative and productive day was spending an hour each morning exercising. Working out cleared their heads, they said, and gave them energy to sustain themselves throughout the day, improving their mood while increasing their creativity.

I’ve never been very disciplined about exercise, and I found myself making excuses as to why I couldn’t live my life like them. I don’t have an hour to spare in the morning, I said to myself, because I dedicate an hour each morning to my creative writing and revising. I need that hour, I said, because it clears my head, gives me energy that sustains, throughout the day, improves my mood, and increases my creativity.

Oh, I realized. I have a mental exercise routine.

I am not a neuroscientist, so I don’t know why spending an hour in deep creative work–an hour I could spend sleeping–produces more energy and more creativity. But it does. And I am particularly cognizant of that this morning.

Regular readers will know that, not too long ago, I fell out of my writing routine, and ended up neglecting my work-in-progress for weeks. Then I found my way back, and things just flowed. Well, it seems I am a slow learner, because I just went another week without honoring my morning ritual. Oh, I had excuses. Travel, job demands, family. I told myself that if I took that hour back, I would have an extra hour to attend to all of those other demands.

But what those leadership speakers said was that by surrendering their hour to exercise, their productivity improved such that they accomplished more in the rest of the day than they would have had they given that hour to their jobs.

So I returned this morning, once again, to my writing routine. And, low and behold, I felt enough of a creative rush to write this post, my first to this site in two weeks. I am a slow learner, but if I keep calling myself out publicly on these setbacks, maybe the lesson will sink in. A daily workout with my muse is not an indulgence, but an investment.

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

30 Responses to “Is Your Creative Muse Getting Regular Exercise?”

  1. Patrick: This is a conundrum I’ve been facing for awhile. Why do I let myself fall out of a writing routine when I *know* how important it is to regularly “exercise” my creativity? I, too, make excuses. This past month was particularly funny as I was teaching creative writing for the first time, exhorting my young students to write, write everyday! And they did. Meanwhile, I was so exhausted from the class (6 days a week!) that I couldn’t follow the advice myself. (I’m going to give myself a break on that, though – this time).

    After I get back home (see, another excuse!) I look forward to getting back into a routine again. I need it. Thanks, as always, for sharing your process and questions.

    • Hi Sion! I’ve been excited that you’re teaching creative writing now, but yes, how awkward not to practice what you teach. When I first started teaching my class on blogging earlier this year, telling them all the things they need to do to engage with other bloggers, etc., I encountered the same problem because I wasn’t always practicing it!

      I still have the deadline of MFA packets to keep me going. I would imagine it’s harder for you, not having that external prompt.

  2. My workday always goes better when I start with exercises in my notebook. I know this and yet I sometimes still stray from my routine. Someday I’m going to be smarter. Sigh.

  3. I hear you loud and clear. I know it works. I’ve experienced it. But I still have lapses and wonder why I feel stagnated. Thanks for the honesty.

    • I think the key, for me anyway, is to move more quickly from “I feel stagnated” to the awareness of WHY I feel stagnated and what I can do about it. And thank you for your honesty as well.

  4. I think exercise can help with creative work just because you can have more energy. It’s easier to get through the day, it’s harder to feel those tired “doldrums”. I know that when I am consistently running, things just work easier for me? Thanks for reminding me, I gotta go running this week.

    If you are interested in this connection, read “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami, the author of “The Wind Up Bird Chronicles”
    Hes a marathoner and a writer. Heres some quotes from the book:
    http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2475030-hashiru-koto-ni-tsuite-kataru-toki-ni-boku-no-kataru

    • Thank you for the link. There’s one quote that spoke to me, that reminded me of the creative insights I had when traveling alone on my cross-country road trip: “When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.” I get that. Awhile back there was a conversation in the comments field of this blog in which a lot of us talked about how we get inspiration in the shower, that moment of solitude where you’re not interacting with anyone and you can’t do anything but the task at hand.

  5. This is so true, and a lesson I have to re-learn often, too. I used to work 5 days a week and take the weekends off, but I’ve started working little 1-3 hour spurts on Saturday and Sundays because I’ve learned that it helps me. It’s not so long that it feels looming, so I still feel like I have free weekends, but it’s enough to get those creative muscles active—and usually makes my Mondays a little softer. So yes, I agree whole-heartedly.

    Also, did you redesign the site? I’m liking how clean it looks!

    • Ah, yes, the balance of making use of weekend time while not “losing” the weekend. I hear you! My barometer on that is if my wife and kids feel they still had me around during the weekend; then I know I’ve hit the balance.

      Thanks for noticing the redesign? I’m trying a new WP theme, one I paid for and tweaked. I loved the old “grunge” one that was free, but so many other bloggers used it! I’m also experimenting with having the home page just have teasers of each post and then click-throughs, rather than just the whole post running down the left column. Always tweaking.

  6. Funny you should mention this…just last week I returned to my routine of writing first thing in the morning (I’ve been doing this on my back deck, before it gets hot–heaven). What a difference this makes! Suddenly my journal is full of blog posts, ideas for my WIP, tips to add to classes, all kinds of things. It truly exercises my brain and sets me up for the day. Now, if I could only figure out how to get that physical exercise a bit more regularly…

    • Charlotte, that’s fantastic about the journaling! And yes, I’m with you on the physical exercise part. You’ll note I didn’t mention anything about me working on that element of my life!🙂

  7. Hi Patrick,

    I agree with routine encouraging and reinforcing our creativity. I really need to develop a creative routine for myself as well. I’m starting a new job and it is changing my schedule somewhat. I’m hoping I can find some balance and ensure I’m still making art and writing while also committing to this new task.

    • Ah, Carrie, you’ve got the new job, of course the marriage, lots of change. The very fact that you’re focused and thinking about maintaining the balance tells me you’ll find it. Good luck!

  8. These are my tips to boost your creativity. Try something different every day. Mix with new people – and younger people. Read stuff you do not normally read.

  9. I’m the same way with meditation. I know it’s good for me. I keep saying to myself, “Do this in the morning. Even ten minutes,” but have yet to stay at it regularly. In general, I want (and need) to incorporate a morning ritual. My muse is usually ready, but she is often scattered. And, yes, I immediately noticed your blog changes. Very clean!.

    • Ah yes, meditation. Glad to hear that works for you. I tried meditation a few years ago, and I guess I didn’t stick with it long enough. It actually became a stresser, as I would get frustrated I wasn’t finding my center fast enough! There’s a funny book by Dinty Moore called The Accidental Buddhist where he talks about his initial frustration at meditation, it’s a hilarious scene. He stuck with it, and then was able to write about his struggles with humor.

  10. I know precisely what you mean! I’ve just taken a week off from writing, and now I am finding it arduously hard to get back into it! And I had a routine of an hour in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon/evening.

  11. Patrick, with your commitments, workload and family, you could almost be excused for lapsing. I admire you for not seeing it that way.🙂 And for using your blog to hold yourself publicly accountable.

    (Which means the rest of us benefit from another inspiring post from Patrick.)

    I’m also (guility) relieved. I thought this was going to be a post about (physically) exercising for an hour every morning. Like you, I don’t have a regimen; I just walk in the park or ride my bike when the spirit moves me. I can relate so much better to “coffee and journaling” as my creative workout every morning.

  12. What is your routine? I’d like to have some creative stamina :l

    • My routine is going straight to my computer each morning–coffee in hand, pre-brewed by the programming feature–and writing. I may only be there for thirty minutes or so, but the creativity wakes me up more than the coffee. I know a lot of people journal in the morning; I think this is similar, except I’m working on my work in progress.

      I read the other day that it helps your creative muse to launch in before you do all of those little daily routines, such as making breakfast, getting dressed, etc., that it’s better to catch your muse when she’s not yet completely awake. So I guess I was doing that right!

      • That’s awesome. I tried it this morning, and I can’t believe the difference it makes not only in my day, but in my writing. I guess my muse is a morning person. =]

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Is Your Creative Muse Getting Regular Exercise? | creative process or what inspires creativity? | Scoop.it - August 17, 2012

    […] Not too long ago I shrank in my seat while attending a leadership seminar. Two of the speakers said their secret to a creative and productive day was spending an hour each morning exercising. Worki…  […]

  2. Is Your Creative Muse Getting Regular Exercise? | Stan Stewart's Blog - August 17, 2012

    […] on artistsroad.wordpress.com Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  3. WRITING ON THE ETHER: Quality Time | Jane Friedman - August 23, 2012

    […] There are three ideas here, really, in Patrick Ross’ write – Is Your Creative Muse Getting Regular Exercise? […]

Chime in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: