Monday, 22 October 2012
I have a question that's been on my mind for some time, and one for which I've found little in the way of considered answers.
Are creativity and physical fitness mutually exclusive?
Recently I asked the question on Quora...
Quora se fokken moer - tough to attract answers different from the likes of: "Obviously they are not exclusive, I'm a photographer and I run every day." So maybe I can describe what I'm seeing (or not seeing) slightly better here, because I still believe that they really are pretty much exclusive and we might just have to deal with this fact "going forward", and that I think there are practical implications that arise from this. From my own experience, which I believe counts, the two almost never occur simultaneously.
Despite plentiful evidence that physical fitness and wellbeing promote general mental health and productivity, it seems that, generally, there are not many very fit and simultaneously very creative people around. In fact I can't think of any, anywhere.
What I am not talking about are said people who "go for runs" or people who work in "broader creative fields". Also what I am not getting at is "My uncle is a champion boxer and paints." Painting itself is creative but I'm sure there are (selling) painters out there who paint what they see and haven't had a creative thought in years. Meditative maybe, but their work was probably not the start of a new movement.
I hope I'm making sense here - I'm talking about creativity that can create new shit. Ergo, needs to be kind of groundbreaking... and even slightly groundbreaking shit tends to come from a state of mind, mental habits, specific motivations and work prioritisation. Genuine creativity and extreme fitness are both extreme enough to warrant different ways of being in the world. Just ask Iron Mike or Oscar Wilde.
Some people have pointed to certain big name badasses: Richard Branson (presumably the famous photo of him waterskiing with a naked model on his back led them to believe that once a man of that age can do that he can simply do anything - and perhaps they're right), Mikhail Baryshnikov (probably the closest so far, still we need more examples like this I think) and even LeBron James.
Whilst all sport is, in a sense, fundamentally creative, for most professionals or top athletes it's about practicing the same thing millions of times for their entire life until they are "a master". This is clearly not the same cerebral creativity demanded by the arts, whose forms of creativity rely on creative differentiation and also seem to depend much more on someone identifying themselves as a creative person.
I'm more interested in everyday people and how they might strive for both creativity and fitness in their daily lives, assuming some rather dedicated focus.
I work in a creative field too, but this does not mean that I am creative by default or that I am having genuinely creative thoughts all day. I also know that I am reasonably fit right now, but I am certainly not very fit, and if I got substantially fitter, my motivation to be creative would dwindle.
For me this extends even to the length that I get my hair cut. Sure as shit, when I get a short haircut I feel like running or lifting weights - I feel aerodynamic (hydrodynamic in summer). And then as it grows longer I feel my creative juices begin to flow once more, the craziness returns, and the right brain becomes the bully in the equation.
When I feel that great physically, and I have at one or two points in my life, I just couldn't give a shit about being creative. "Who needs creativity when you feel like this?" I don't see some ridiculously tanned and hyper-fit Brazilian Jui-Juitsu expert just busting to go and write more of his critically acclaimed poetry. [As an aside these hyperfit specimens are typically far more at home with alcohol, if anything, when it comes to indulging, and it's very seldom that they look forward to acid trips on the weekend.]
Just think about even trying to strive super hard for both these things. One might think that adopting an American Psycho, type A vibe might do the trick. But have you ever seen it? And it's not because there are not enough hours in the day, but simply because doing both ceases to be a priority.
When you are very creative, the world is responding to it and your shit is peaking out, why on earth would you want to go and do an Ironman?
Lets assume that Baryshnikov has indeed achieved this sort of feat. Where the hell is everyone else? Are these not things that pretty much most people strive for day in and day out? Becoming more of both?
To me these seem (and quite logically in terms of evolution) to be polar opposites, and that the human brain would be stretched in quite opposing directions if one were to really strive for both. Help me here, not by thinking whether this idea is right or wrong yet, but by going out and just noticing people.