Creative Muscle Memory

This week, I am pleased to feature a guest post from my good friend and creativity fiend, Steven Harowitz. You can check out his latest project, Creative Weekend, and sign up for the next round here.

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“Don’t you think we should model this right and get warmed up?”

“Of course.”

I watched as these two very respected professors launched into a round of Proverbs (one of my favorite Improv warm-ups), complete with a round of “yes yes yes yes yes” to finish it out (which I joined in on under my breath). It was a pretty standard webinar up to that point.

I’ve never seen Proverbs outside of Improv, let alone during a professional webinar. While sitting amongst non-Improv colleagues, I felt like I was a part of an inside joke, the kind that puts a smirk on your face while inside you’re screaming “I KNOW WHATS HAPPENING.” However, if you step back and look around, it really isn’t all that surprising – both from a context standpoint (the design school at Stanford uses Improv tools often) and from an industry standpoint.

Try Googling “Improv Business.” 7,360,000 results.  Applying Improv theories and practices to the business community is apparently a booming field. There are Improv classes at business schools all over the country. It might just be a fad – the newest thing to market to young business professionals – or maybe these business schools really do believe in the merit of improv. I can’t be upset about it.

Those in the Improv community recognize the inherent greatness of Improv philosophies and skill sets. We’re happy to share the cult-like love of the art form in any way we can. What is odd, though, is what happens when you Google “Improv Creativity.” You get back around 342,000 results (One article is titled “Quantum Leap Business Improv.” I want some of that shit.). That’s a little over a 21.5x decrease over searching “Improv Business.” There can be a case made that the increase in search for “Improv Business” is tied to business being more profitable (in terms of audience attention). I would make the case that it is actually tied to how we prioritize creativity in our everyday lives – relatively low.

Do you wake up and think, “How can I be more creative today?”

Do you stop in the middle of mundane, repetitive tasks to rethink how that process works?

Do you warm up the creative parts of your brain before you launch into tasks?

flexIt’s the same with exercise. I can run for 5 miles without warming up, but at some point, that catches up with me. Whether it’s during the run, the next day, or the next time I head out with my running shoes on, my lack of stretching will catch up and kick my ass.

Do you ever get brain fog? Your mind feels so weighted down that the only thing you feel can logically get you through is binge watching Netflix? That. That’s what we’re talking about.

Creativity isn’t meant just for our jobs, but for our everyday lives. Without it, your brain gets foggy, cluttered with the works of art you haven’t yet let out. Take a second (or 991 seconds to be exact) to watch Dr. Charles Lamb TED talk on his research into the effects of Improv on the brain. He can explain the hard science better than me.

Our lives outside of work can be monotonous. We go through routine cycles. Every Sunday do laundry. Every Wednesday do dishes. Thursday is for watching a football game then going to bed early. Saturday gym. Then, when the week hits, we have to turn our brain on from 9-5 and expect it to be at peak capacity. There are ripple effects to it all.

Don’t compartmentalize creativity to work. Embed creativity into your everyday life and the positive effects will be felt throughout. It all builds up to a point where you learn creative muscle memory. Stretching your creativity, through attempts and failures, tend to stack up over time into something wonderful, a type of creative muscle memory that you can flex in any aspect of your life. Just like a well crafted Improv scene is not only built between two players in a scene, but over months and years of practices, classes, workshops, failures, and successes.

If you find yourself stuck, wandering through the fog, just remember the two accomplished professors making up a proverb word-by-word in front of thousands.

“Always.

Learn.

How.

To.

Make.

Something.

Out.

Of.

Nothing.

Yes yes yes yes yes.”

 

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