HIIT for Creativity

HIIT for Creativity

Sometime in 2015 I started making 9 inch by 9 inch abstracts with alcohol based markers. I do this activity most weekend nights. Pre-pandemic, I would also socialize but I usually make about one a week. I haven’t counted my output but it’s a lot.

Maybe a year ago the supplies were organized, markers separated by colors into three containers (warm, cool and neutral), finished work dated and put in box. Now there are many containers with no categorization. Worse, there are four pads of paper, each holding undated finished pieces, some that still have the tape I use to hang them while working. A few are quite good. One I felt should be framed and hung. How had it gotten so neglected? One was stunningly bad. Color selection is atrocious. Why put baby blue with so many warms tones? Composition is maybe the worst ever. The opposite of harmony. Looking at it is like eating a lunch of leftovers from three culturally distinct meals, spaghetti with seaweed salad and a few bites of burrito. That one is never going into the box!

I was noticing all of this as I set up last night. It made me a little uneasy. What is all this about? my mind demanded to know. What exactly are you doing here? What’s the point? You’re awfully messy. If you can’t even preserve the ones you’ve already made, why are you making more?

Ack! I couldn’t put the music on fast enough!

With monkey mind diverted by song I choose some markers and got to it. Ten songs later and a good way into the piece I started pondering again, but with a more enthusiastic perspective. Doing this is practice for everything else. If I can be brave enough to confront a blank piece of paper and not walk away until it’s totally filled, I can do that in other arenas as well. I can do that in my job, which requires a lot of stamina and creative decision making. I can do that in my relationships, which require me to fully be present and open to unknown terrain, some of it quite anxiety producing. By engaging over and over in creative uncertainty, watching it resolve through choice and time, I learn that I am competent to do that. There is almost nothing more useful.

Making one mark after another over and over makes me stronger. It’s a workout for creativity. It’s like a very targeted exercise that uses repetition to build of intuitive muscle matter. Some are good and I feel so grateful. Some are hideous and I hate it. It’s not about getting it right every time, it’s about getting it done and learning from what the finalized piece has to offer.

I like the thoughts I have while making art so much more than the thoughts I have when I am only thinking about making it.

I am a stickler about accuracy and my headline does not match my essay. I didn’t draw a sufficient parallel to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I just used the word as a synonym for workout because Workout for Creativity is Blah! Maybe another time, goodness knows I’ve been known to do a part one and part two of a topic.

Not What I Expected Part 4. Who Here Thinks This is a Yoga Class?

Not What I Expected Part 4. Who Here Thinks This is a Yoga Class?
How I felt when it was over.

I am medium fit. Compared to people who don’t exercise at all I am in great shape. Compared to people who take it seriously, I am weak as Lipton tea (we prefer PG Tips). The bulk of my exercise comes from walking dogs. We average a mile and half a day and hike once on the weekends. This doesn’t make me buff or visually interesting but it does allow for beer drinking without too much mid section expansion. A good trade in my mind. I also do precisely one yoga class a week and have for several decades. This keeps neck and back tension at bay and sort of feels like having the correct amount of oil in car, just enough for base line maintenance. Twenty years in and I still can’t put my head on my knees with straight legs. Oh well. Cross that off the bucket list.

Before we get to what happened you need to know I take the easiest class. It’s only an hour and follows the same series of postures every time allowing me to track where we are in the routine and conserve energy so I know I can do it all. I keep a post-it note on my computer with the times of the classes I like. They change the schedule and teachers every week so I use the post-it note method regularly. Working freelance, I never know what day is going to be best.

My stupid post it note said there was a 1:30 class. I rode my bike to the studio, about a mile away. There are two class rooms, the name and time of the class is written on the door so you know which one to enter. I noticed the door said 1:30 but rather than Modo (my class) it said The Workout. I turned back to the young guy filling his water bottle behind me and asked him what kind of class that was. He said, “Their hardest”.


He said something about interval training.


My brain is calculating like crazy. Is this some cross fit level business? How sore and depleted will I be in an hour? Will I be able to ride my bike home?

The room was warm as always, it’s a hot yoga studio after all. There are words written on the mirror. I’ve never seen that. They say things like Death Lunges, Craptastic Curls and Adios Biceps. I don’t know what it said. I can’t remember but here’s what happened.

The teacher comes in and says “Who here thinks this is a yoga class?” I don’t raise my hand. We proceed to do 3 ten minute sets of exercise where you rotate from one awful thing to the next with out stopping for ten minutes. In between there is a tiny amount of slumping on the ground and a lot of one off exercises. The only reason any of this can work at all is because the speakers are loudly pumping out an analogous interval merry go round of Ozzy Osborne, Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden. Dear God Thank You for Hard Rock. Thank you for the unparalleled vocal righteous anger that is the voice of Zack de le Rocha. Without him I could not have done 5000 pushups.

I honestly don’t have much memory of the ordeal. It didn’t take long for me to pass into an altered state. The final exercise was abs. At first it felt so great just to be butt down not using my arms which had taken out a full ivy league tuition level of lactic acid debt. I feared we wouldn’t be using them again for decades. I proudly had knees bent and feet off the ground as we twisted left to right and right to left for 5 solid days. By the end my feet were embedded in the mat like rebar in cement reducing needed core strength by as much as possible, I had utterly disassociated from the concept of feet and I was swaying more than twisting. I am not sure I have ever really truly collapsed before this class but at the end of that final exercise I involuntarily relinquished all muscle control and flattened like spilled ice cream on hot pavement.

Several eons passed and we figured out global warming and tribalism.

Wait, no, that didn’t happen. It was probably only a few minutes and the world was mostly the same except that when I attempted to become vertical again, I was over taken with a light headedness which quickly morphed into a need to puke. I didn’t. That’s nice. I sat semi-catatonic in the changing room for a while. Slowly my sense of self came back and with it a giddy wad of happiness. What is a giddy wad you ask. Go do an interval training sesh and find out!

I rode my bike home in 1st gear, peddling so slow it’s amazing the bike didn’t topple over. It wasn’t even the muscle fatigue I had to worry about. I was riding while extremely high. Some Venice Italy level flooding of endorphins was turning me into a day tripper. And I liked it. I was having thoughts of doing it again. I can’t tell you how strange that is. It’s the opposite reaction I usually have to discomfort.

It took 4 whole days to get back to normal. I am not fit enough to do another class yet I am contemplating it. Not what I expected.

How I felt when I thought about doing it again.