• Joanna Stone

Activate your creativity

Physical playtime can increase your creative output.

Do any of you remember how people in creative departments used to work in the so-called good old days? (And I don't mean the drinking & smoking part from Mad Men). In former times creation meant something… active. Creatives were engaged in drawing, cutting, gluing, up and down and on and off the chair. Maybe a walk around the city with pen and sketchbook in search of inspiration, library visits, or a trip to the place that is known for having that particular perspective, which would be perfect to illustrate the idea. In short – creatives had to move much more than today.

You might argue that you are very active and you do go out in search of inspiration. I'm sure you do. But it's undeniably true that today we create and exchange ideas without having to move one metre from our desks. In fact, we can stay put in our chairs. While I was working for Miami Ad School Amsterdam, I often entered a room full of creative, inspiring, original and fun young people and saw heads with earphones, fixedly staring at their laptop screens from time to time moving their fingers over the keyboards (the most physical action visible). Even though I am grateful for technical innovations and their benefits, there are traps in constantly using them and forgetting about the old fashioned ways of creating advertising.

So, what are these traps then? Well first of all, there is our health. We all know that sedentary life style is associated to a higher risk of chronic diseases including coronary disorders and type II diabetes. Also prolonged static posture or repetitive low intensity movements can lead to development of musculoskeletal disorders (in the neck and shoulders), as well as strain injuries like writer's cramp, or lower back pains from sitting unergonomically.

But let's stay away from the gloomy afflictions, let's look at playtime – a very important part of the creative process. Remember how much fun it was to stick your feet in the mud, or cover your hands in paint?

John Cleese introduced a theory on how to approach the creative task. He said that we need to operate in two modes: open and closed one. Open mode is the playtime, where you plunge into the unrestricted experiment phase, letting your imagination go completely wild, unafraid of making mistakes because there are none to be made at that moment. We explore the options, make unusual connections and finally when we think we have the solution, we switch into the closed mode where we focus on the precision requiring implementing phase. During the playtime however it is the unknown and unpredictable combination of sights, sounds and movements that will help us make the creative connections.

But that's not the whole story. According to some scientists, physical activity can boost the creativity. How? Well apparently any aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes long can improve all the dimensions of cognitive abilities. Putting it simply – all sorts of thinking, including creative, gets better if we engage in a physical activity. Still not convinced? Other studies show that physical activity is linked to a lower sensitivity to stress, anger, neuroticism, and depression, which helps us to deal with a growing number of briefs and a "constructive" feedback from a client.

So to get back in touch with your creative essence and improve your creative output, I suggest to go back every so often to what nature provided us with; a body to move and a mind to think with, both in a nicely balanced way.

Published originally on AMSTERDAM AD BLOG

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© 2020 Joanna Stone