My long sojourn in Adelaide is coming to an end. Soon, I’ll be boarding a plane back to Singapore. But, before then, there’s still meals to cook, words to write, photos to create and miles to ride on my bike.
I love the winter bike rides here in Adelaide. This really is a cyclist’s city, with wonderful bike paths and generous bike lanes on many roads. Where I ride is on the coast and it is delightful, on cool winter days to ride from cafe to cafe, with stops along the way to admire the view (including the local dolphins), or take a little detour onto the beach.
While I often joke about losing weight on these visits, I don’t ride (or walk on the beach) as a form of exercise. Some days I might ride thirty kilometres or more, other days, just four or five. The distance I cover on the bike doesn’t matter as much as the distance I put between myself and the things that have bogged me down during the year.
These bike rides are not just a recreation, they are an act of re-creation.
Brenda Ueland’s excellent book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, makes some great points about the value of idleness and purposeless exercise for our creative imagination and the power of our ideas.
“…the imagination needs happy idling, dawdling and puttering. People who are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice have little, sharp, staccato ideas such as: “I see where where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meal budget.” But they have no slow, big ideas. And the fewer noble, shining, free, jovial, magnanimous ideas that come up, the more nervously and desperately they rush from office to office and up an downstairs, thinking that by action their life will have some warmth and meaning.”
This doesn’t mean the solution to all our creative crisis rests in watching TV in our pyjamas while eating takeout pizza. Big ideas don’t come from passively receiving the intellectual drip of popular culture, or pacifying ourselves with food and drink (or even caffeine).
But, the big, wild, dangerous creative ideas do come from being fully lost in the present moment, observing the reality around us and letting everything we observe seep into our imagination, providing fuel for our work when we settle down to it.
If there is something I can offer you from my experience of these windswept and inspiring weeks it is this – give yourself the freedom, the permission if you will, to do nothing and dream. Take a long walk, or a bike ride and just live each moment. Don’t try to create, don’t try to figure out how to find value in the experience. Just live, breath and be present to every moment, with no regard to what you will do in the future.