Embodied Creativity

A basic tenet of my work with writers through Wild Words is that any attempt to ‘be creative’ without recognising that the body has a central to part to play in that process, is doomed to failure.

There’s a growing field of study called  Embodied Cognition that asserts this. Highly esteemed cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues that,

all cognition is based on knowledge that comes from the body and that other domains are mapped onto our embodied knowledge using a combination of conceptual metaphorimage schema and prototypes.

What this means is that, for example, we will only ever understand the sentence ‘I’m going to go into the house and then come back out’ if we first know how it feels in our bodies to breath in and out, as well as for food to go in, and faeces to come out, etc. It’s not just that we need to adjust the balance between mind and body. We need to recognise that the mind is in the body.

What this opens up is a new way to explore the potential of our creativity.

We can begin by being present with the body and seeing what ideas come directly from that. We can also start with metaphors, and trace them back to physical experience. I believe that aligning physical experience with the stories that come from that, has a large part to play in inducing those ‘aha!’ moments, the feeling of being truly creative, the feeling of flow…

The term ‘flow’ is a great place to start.

In studies it’s been found that two thirds of creative people habitually use the metaphor of flow or fluidity to describe how it feels to be creative.

Scientists at Stanford University wondered whether, given the links between the metaphors we use in language, and bodily experience, if participants drew ‘fluid’ lines as opposed to ‘non-fluid’ lines, they would be more creative. Results demonstrated that,

Embodying fluidity, relative to nonfluidity, led to an enhanced ability to connect remotely associated concepts

Fluid, creative thinking, is indeed grounded in fluid movement.

But ‘flow’ isn’t the only metaphor we use to describe creative process. We also talk, for example, about ‘thinking outside the box’.

In another study entitled ‘Embodied Metaphors and Creative Acts’  Leung et al. had participants literally sitting in, or outside boxes, while doing creativity tests. Amazingly, this simple change in body position and posture worked. The people sitting outside the box came up with more ideas than those sitting in the box.