Jonathan Fields: Exercise as a Certainty Anchor for Creative Folks

We’re getting settled in our month-long adventure digs. There are perks: nature scenery, a big kitchen to cook in, and…..HBO (we sprinted through season 1 of GIRLS in about 10 seconds). And, there’s the trickier stuff: the commute, the fact that we’re not in our own home, and, having my daily routine altered. You see, with so much constant shifting in my freelance/multi-job/rehearsal schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate knowing that on Mondays I go to spinning, and that on Tuesdays, we always eat dinner at home. A few days into our move I realized I was feeling off-kilter without these routines (and, because I can’t figure out which box I packed most of my life in). Namely, the exercise thing, which has been a major source of anxiety reduction for me since I started to do if regularly last October.

Jonathan Fields writes about the benefits of routines (which he calls ‘certainty anchors’) in the life of the creative person in his book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance. After it sat on my bookshelf for 3 months, I read the better part of this book at a brewery in Denver, while on a solo journey for a dear friend’s wedding.

I found myself constantly nodding (and then ordering another beer taster) as I read through Fields’ ideas for taming the anxiety that often accompanies the creative life. Just like Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, Fields agrees that fear is always going to exist for the creative person. In any satisfying creative life, there are always going to be risks, and that breeds some anxiety. The goal is to figure out how to keep these risks from preventing us from acting daily, and accomplishing the goals we set out to.

But: exercise. It’s a creative anchor that gets a lot of praise from Fields. He uses research to back up what I’ve discovered throughout the last few months: exercise isn’t really an option if you have a tendency towards anxiety and want to function fully.

A large number of artists and entrepreneurs resist exercise as a key element in their ability to do what they most want to do- make cool stuff that speaks to a lot of people…The sad truth is that if we make time to exercise, it makes us so much more productive and leads to such improved creativity, cognitive function, and mood that the time we need for doing it will open up and then some- making us so much happier and better at the art of creation, to boot. Jonathan Fields, Uncertainty

How do you make exercise a habit? For me it took seeing the results. My mood and energy improved so much. Find a form you like, and your chances of sticking to it are much higher. My body feels awful when I run, but I can cycle or do hot yoga or go to dance class happily. And, figure out how to make it convenient. With my local YWCA 4 blocks away, I really couldn’t come up with a good excuse to skip out on class.

So, I found the neighborhood yoga studio and got all zen with my fellow suburbanites. They were very nice. But, I’m really looking forward to getting back to my local Y. I’m missing the old lady who works out to showtune orchestrations every Tuesday morning.

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