Boosting your creativity by walking

You can't force creativity but you can give it a cup of tea and a biscuit.

I was really stuck on a project I was working on earlier. I had an idea of how to get it done but the solution just wouldn't quite blossom into fruition.

To help clear my mind, I decided to take a walk in the rain.

I'd already been walking for fifteen minutes listening to music before I realised that wasn't going to help.

The idea of taking the walk was to switch my brain off - to enjoy hearing the wind in the trees, the birdsong, the feel of the stones under my feet and in essence, be mindful of the walking experience to give my brain chance to work things out.

I removed my headphones and put them in my pocket.

About ten minutes later, something strange happened as I walked through the rain.

The rain wasn't strange. In Scotland walking in the rain is pretty normal.

The strange thing was that I found myself wondering why I never saw wasps in the pouring rain. Five minutes after that, I noticed a wasp, out of the corner of my eye, sheltering under some Cow Parsley. I'm not sure if that's standard wasp practice in the pouring rain but it was a fun encounter I might otherwise have missed.

By the end of the walk I'd come up with a few ideas to solve my problem - and I hadn't even been thinking about it.

You can't force creativity.

I originally got the idea of taking a walk to encourage my creative process from an eBook I'm reading - Blog Post Ideas: 21 Proven Ways to Create Compelling Content and Kiss Writer's Block Goodbye by Danny Inny and Jim Hopkinson but there are other sources that encourage walking outside to give your inspiration a boost.

Apparently many great writers have extolled the value of a good walk as part of their creative process. Charles Dickens spent many hours wandering the streets of London when writing his visions of Victorian England. The BBC website published an interesting article about how we rarely use purposeless walks to create thinking spaces in western society.

Stanford University discussed the benefits of walking for the creative process in an article on their site but they focused more on the benefits of aerobic exercise to the creative process than actually being outside. This study is discussed further in an article on the Psychology Today website.

Psychologists at the University of Utah published a study in 2012 showing that backpackers that had been hiking for four days without access to technology scored 50% better at creative tests - but very few of us have the luxury of disappearing for four days when we encounter a creative roadblock. I've found an hour is usually sufficient for me.

Eliminate distractions

Our lives are full of distractions - smartphones are constantly pinging with new notifications in addition to the more traditional workplace distractions of checking emails and taking telephone calls. If you're trying to focus on bringing that amazing idea out of your subconscious, you really need to get away from them for a moment or two.

It may seem counter-productive to leave your desk to be more productive - you're busy, you've got deadlines and you can't afford to leave what you're doing - especially as you might get an important telephone call or email when you're away from your desk but that's exactly why you need to get away. You're not going to hit a deadline with a blank page or by being continually distracted.

Do what you can

Not all of us live or work in an area that we'd want to walk around. According to the Stanford study, just the act of aerobic exercise is enough to stimulate a creative response. Going for a swim or just walking up and down the corridors of your workplace would probably be better than continuing to sit in frustration.

At the very least, you'll be reducing the threat of deep-vein thrombosis from sitting too long.


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