Updated: Mar 26, 2020
A brief look into how the act of exploring can help to generate new creative ideas.
I have often felt torn between wanting to spend my time exploring outdoor places, pursuing a career in this field, and being an artist, creating work and pursing a creative career instead. Having had the luxury of being able to delve into some deep reflection whilst studying on the Art and Social Practice MA with UHI, I have learned that I wouldn't have one practice without the other. Creative development is the reason I go outdoors and explore, and the outdoor environment is inspiration to come back and look into these ideas further.
Here are the 3 main reasons I have come to realise how exploring can help aid creative thought:
1. Exploring new environments will train your senses to observe more detail
Every time I walk in a new environment, I am vastly more aware of the colours and shapes around me. I pay attention to the smells and watch for the changes in the environment in a way I don't seem to manage in my day to day life. When we are more aware of our senses and our surroundings we are more likely to be creative. Matthijs Baas, University of Amsterdam studied the link between mindfulness and creativity and concluded that "To be creative, you need to have, or be trained in, the ability to carefully observe, notice, or attend to phenomena that pass your mind’s eye." (1)
The more we explore, the more trained we become at observing the 'phenomena' that pass us by and can then put these observations to creative use.
2. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone can help spark new ideas
It has long been established that we learn more about ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zone from time to time, and into our stretch zone. This feeling of discomfort you might feel from doing something is similar to the feeling some people experience towards creativity as Mueller argues (2). Although creativity can be seen as positive, Muller explains that as it is 'novel' it can be uncomfortable for us to associate with and therefore be taken negatively.
Surely then the more we might explore and step out of our comfort zone physically, the more we will learn it is OK to feel uncomfortable. In fact, the more we explore, the more comfortable we get feeling uncomfortable- the state of which creativity can develop.
3. Taking a walk has been proven to help increase creativity
Research by Stanford University(3) a few years ago proves the simple act of walking itself can increase an individuals creativity. Earlier this year walking the Great Glen Way with a good friend- the first time in a long time I simply walked without any other reason than to walk for several days in a row- it certainly struck me that I was able to resolve a lot of my ongoing life questions and internal dilemmas due to the ease of which my mind could wander freely.
The physical act of walking it would seem provides us with the ability to allow our minds to metaphorically wander- and as a result, be in a more creative mental state.
List of References
1. Baas, M., Nevicka, B. & Ten Velden, F.S. (2014) 'Specific Mindfulness Skills Differentially Predict Creative Performance'. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 40 (9), 1092-1106
2. Mueller, J.S., Melwani, S. & Goncalo, J.A. (2012) 'The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire but Reject Creative Ideas'. Psychol Sci 23 (1), 13-17
3. Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D.L. (2014) 'Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking'. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40 (4), 1142-1152