Creativity and Physical Health

I dislike the term “writers block.” I think it’s an overused generalization that can cover up a lot of underlying causes. It can be a fear-based procrastination attempt, a hint at a fear of failure (or even success) lurking beneath the surface. It can be a clue that someone isn’t cut out to be a writer, that they lack the fundamental urge to tell stories. But more often than not, I believe it’s a sign that you’re not taking proper care of yourself.

The times I don’t feel like writing or feel as though the idea well has gone dry can be traced back to a number of physical causes:

  • I haven’t gotten enough sleep. This one probably accounts for 80% of the time I struggle to be creative.
  • I’m feeling emotionally run down. Usually this is because I haven’t gotten enough sleep.
  • The well isn’t dry, it’s just low. I’ve been pushing myself too hard, and I need to recharge, whether that means visiting a museum or read non-fiction to soak up ideas, or…

I need to exercise. That’s a big one. When life derails all my attempts at fitness, as it did in the last quarter of last year, my creative output falters, and with it the confidence I have in my creativity. It can take a while to get back on track. Time, and a few runs, and a few sessions of yoga, and several trips to the gym.

I’ll still be going to museums, and sampling new experiences, reading outside my usual genres (check out the excellent Selected Shorts episode celebrating Hunter S. Thompson), journaling, and other activities that feed my creative side, but mostly, I’ll be taking care of the body that fuels the brain that tells the stories. It’s not just good for you, it’s good for creativity, too.

Here’s a sampling of a few articles that make the same point:

How Physical Health Supercharges Creativity

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: How Physical Health Impacts Creativity

A Creative Life is a Healthy Life

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