Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walkabout for Creativity

Coming to Seattle, I was astonished by how many people preferred to "visit" on foot. No chatting in cafes over coffee and apple pie, but strolls (a paper coffee cup in hand) or brisk walks through one of the Emerald City's approximately 200 parks. More often than not, we would forego window shopping and trot up and down boulevards with views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula, or downtown with the Cascades and Mount Rainier as backdrop.

People watching from side-walk terraces had been a favorite pastime, but these active visits were right up my alley. My walks elsewhere had been solitary, now I was getting to know people as well as Seattle's seven hills, finding my way around Queen Anne, Phinney Ridge, and West-Seattle the way only walkers and cyclists do.

Talk about cyclists, being Dutch my main form of transportation back home had been a bike,  yet in Seattle I couldn't get used to pedestrians passing me while I was struggling up hill on my bike. So I took to walking up and down the hills instead. Within a few months my Achilles tendon acted up, the verdict, no more walking uphill. A year after our arrival I called on my doctor complaining about sharp pains in my heels. He told me I had worn out my foot pads, taught me how to tape my foot, prescribed anti-inflamatory meds and told me not to walk downhill anymore because the shifting of weight on my feet caused to much friction. The solution? Take the longer route, zig-zag up or down hill, or taking the bus to level ground. Walk I would.

As a young stage designer I told a reporter friend who had invited me for an outing on his boat that I couldn't go, because I had to come up with a design concept for a play.
"Don't deprive yourself of outings, going for a walk, a bike ride, or an afternoon on the water. Your brain continues working on the project in the background, subconsciously you're solving any problem by not focusing on it, but doing something relaxing, or exercising."

That afternoon I chose to believe him, and I'm still thankful I did, for I learned an important lesson. Back in my studio after boating and dinner with strangers along the shore of the IJ, an idea popped up I had not thought of before. So, the outcome of a Stanford Study that walking improves creativity doesn't come as a surprise to me. But the same could be said for road and boat trips, or building costumes for that matter. Anything that transports you away from your familiar, whether for real or metaphorically, will trigger the little grey cells to do there work uncensored.

As for my feet, it took getting rid of high heels, years of physical therapy and exercise before the plantar fasciitis healed, but today's bouncy shoe soles make it possible to adhere to my credo:

When in doubt, go for a walkabout. 

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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