Tales of Running: Running & Daydreaming

So I'm currently reading (ok, listening to) Jonah Lehrer's Imagine:  How Creativity Works and despite the issues around Lehrer's journalistic practices, there are elements to it that I certainly appreciate.  At its core, the book identifies the manners and reasons in which people come to generate creativity in their lives.  I do believe that in some ways I am creative and recognize some of the actions and ways he describes people's habits for generating creativity active in my daily life.

One element he discusses is creating time and opportunities for deliberate daydreaming.  He explains that it's not enough to just daydream, but to be conscious of that daydreaming to draw upon and bring back into the real world.  For me, this idea is felt most palpably is running.  Running is a quiet time.  It's often me, the music, and the road.  Not much interaction with the world around me beside monitoring for safe cues to proceed.  Running is day-dream time.   The quietness of running affords me great time to think and for great durations.  If I'm doing a run of an hour or more, that's a lot of time to let my mind wander through all sorts of topics.  I don't set out on the path with a determined agenda but I let my mind wander interspersed with focusing on my body's mechanics as I warm up to the run.  Somewhere around mile 2 or 3, I slip into the daydream.  Usually, it's some problem or challenge directly in my line of vision--that is, it's something directly related to immediate life.  Maybe it's a project I'm working on or a decision I'm trying to make.  At other times, it comes apropos of nothing but some random (or possibly not random but not a coherently identifiable) thought that I pursue.  As I ponder the topic, I find that it eats up the miles as I try to understand make sense of it.

But thinking about it, isn't enough, I often need to follow through upon returning home--something that doesn't always happen.  I act on many of these thought journeys but not always.  I sometimes forget.  I sometimes do not feel as ambitious or brave after I've returned home, showered, and am sitting on the couch.  But some of my best ideas do come from this quiet time.

In many ways, as I contemplate writing a book, I feel these runs are helping me tweak and devise what Stephen Johnson would call, "the long hunch."  As I have put the miles behind me, it's a topic I come back to and deliberate on, adding elements that I think would be useful and tweaking just want it is that I want to say and how to say it in the most effective way possible.

Another opportune time comes in the minutes before sleep.  In general, I'm quick to fall to sleep. 10 minutes and I'm out.  But that's not always the case and even when it is, those thoughts in my head do swirl and again, ideas come to the forefront.  Acting on these are harder.  My goal in lying down is to go to sleep.  If I don't capture the idea before falling asleep, I will lose it.  But if I do capture the idea (either writing it down or vocally recording it,), I am pulled out of the sleepy revelry.  So it's either lost sleep or lost ideas.  And sometimes, the lost idea wins out (or rather loses).   

Before Lehrer, I've always been a fan of unplanned thinking time--time to just enjoy reflection and following the different strands of thought that move through our synapses.  I've always known it to be valuable, but I'm glad I'm not the only one who recognizes it.  There is a joy in thinking and being aware of the strange way the free-thought process works.  As elusive and abstract as it can be, it can also produce some really great insights and ideas.

Soooo...that's just something to think about...maybe on your next run?



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