I Write When I Run

Image for postEmel Bayramoglu on Instagram

I have too many ideas but little time to turn them all into proper stories. Like many other writers, I write down my ideas daily in a compiled list. The other day, I realized that if I want to turn all those ideas into stories, I have to quit everything and probably write for the next five years.

So, where does this creativity come from?

I observed myself and found out thesimilar occasions my idea generation sparks. Running came as the top occasion far above anything else that my creative process ignite. I was curious — why running? There must be some scientific evidence behind it.

Then I dug a little and formed this science-backed formula to boost creativity:

EXERCISE + NO GOALS + MUSIC + AIRPLANE MODE PHONE = CREATIVITY

I run outdoors on my own, mostly for about an hour or more, while listening to music. I switch my phone to airplane mode because I don’t want to be disturbed. And my golden rule, NO GOALS during the run.

I don’t count how many km I run or how many ideas I generated. Running is about freedom; why should I calculate kilometers and restrict myself? And setting a goal for a creative task like finding new ideas would only limit me.

After each running session, I usually structure a single story from intro to conclusion. But some days, my mind wants to hop. So those days, I only create ideas without putting them into a frame.

In any way, running boosts my creativity. Here is how each element of my formula supports this process:

Exercise

It was Socrates and his student Plato’s habit to theorize while walking. Leonardo Da Vinci’s incredible shape was as famous as his artworks. The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami devoted a book to running. It is no surprise world’s greatest thinkers, artists, and geniuses made exercise part of their daily routine.

Studies say regular exercise, especially cardio workouts like running, is associated with improved divergent and convergent thinking, which are the creative thinking components. Convergent thinking is where you think about a single solution for a problem in-depth, while divergent thinking is to find alternative solutions.

No goals

In 2012 researchers found that undemanding tasks lead to better creative problem-solving. Another study proved there is a strong correlation between mind wandering and creative thinking. Numerous studies are supporting that we should free our minds to be creative.

When you set targets like ‘Today I will run 10km’, you captive your mind to a goal. Your mind’s priority will be to reach that goal over any other thought. You will check the running tracker app every 10 minutes to see how long you have been running; or even worse, your app’s audio coach will interrupt your favorite song to announce ‘Time 10 minutes, 1.5 km’.

For heaven’s sake, I have quit using those distance tracking apps.

I don’t want to be tracked by an app. I run as long as I want. I stop when I want to stop. I want to be free when I am running! I listen to what my body is speaking to me and decide the duration of the run.

Surprisingly, ever since I quit those apps, I started to run longer. I am not sure how much precisely longer since I don’t track anymore. Instead of tracking distance, I let my mind daydream.

When my mind is idle, my creativity boosts. When I free my mind from goals, stress-free thinking starts, and ideas are a dime a dozen.

Goals will only limit you. Free your mind from targets to unleash your creative potential.

Music

Most of us would agree that inspiration and stress do not get along well. Indeed, creative output is usually associated with lower stress levels.

You might have heard about Weightless, the world’s most relaxing song, by Marconi Union. A study by Mindlab International proved that this song induces a 65% reduction in anxiety. It is so effective that even considered dangerous to play while driving. But this is not the only song that helps to release stress. Listening to music is suggested to lower anxiety levels.

Of course, depending on the type of song, your mood will vary. It is not hard to figure out what kind of music gives you mental calm while still keeping motivated enough to conduct a psychically demanding activity like running.

Some people love to listen to Techno, some House, and others different types. So it is a personal choice, and it is your part to find out after listening to different kinds of music by observing your mood.

Airplane mode phone

I wish I could keep my phone on airplane mode 24/7, but unfortunately, that would be too much to ask in today’s world. Regardless we all deserve uninterrupted solitude for at least a couple of hours in a week. Running is my self-care, a break from life, where I can disconnect after busy days and nights.

When we are not interrupted by others, we can deep dive into our own thoughts, where the best writing pieces lie.

So it is quite essential not to disturb that thinking process. A scientific study tells us technology and distractions negatively impact concentration.

Concentration is related to creativity because of the convergent thinking component of it. In convergent thinking, you need focus, not unexpected distractions.

Focus does not necessarily mean having concrete goals. You can simply focus on thinking itself without putting a target like ‘Today I will find ten writing ideas’, just as you can concentrate on running itself without aiming a 10km distance.

Focus means concentration on the action that you are performing instead of letting other things distract you.

Final thoughts

EXERCISE + NO GOALS + MUSIC + AIRPLANE MODE PHONE is a unique formula for creativity that I have figured out with self-observation. Since every individual is different, if you want to nurture your creativity, take some time to look at yourself through an outside lens and spot those moments your creative potential shines. So, you can create your own formula.

I also need to mention my method’s challenge: While running, I can’t write my thoughts right away! So I need to go back home, take a shower, change clothes, then start writing. And this means more time is required.

If you ever heard a mind-reading device turn thoughts into digital papers, please let me know. You would save me a lot of time!

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