Creativity, Corporeality + Capitalism—Tips for Tapping into Your Body for Heightened Productivity, Part One

Tips for Tapping into Your Body for Heightened Creativity—Pay Attention to Cycles

I decided I wanted to write about embodied creativity today, about the relationship between our creative/productive drives and capacities, and our bodies. And in thinking about this, in beginning to explore and untangle some of my thoughts here, I kept returning to capitalism and its modes and definitions of production and productivity.

Because I think to truly access our creative (and even, ironically, productive) potential, we need to disengage it from some of the expectations and narratives of production in a purely capitalist context.

Capitalism centers profit above all, and functions on a belief system that productivity = profit. Combine this with a Puritanical work ethic that considers idle hands the devil’s playthings, and you have a recipe for constant work (where work means churning out product), and ultimate/subsequent burn out, or worse. (All work and no play makes Jack a dull, pyschopathic boy.)

You also have a fertile growing field for guilt and shame, coupled with an absence of pleasure, play and idleness.

All great ways to annihilate creativity.

While it is nice to set goals and accomplish things, and while most of us do indeed want to create and produce final products and projects, capitalism tends to lead us to go about it in an unhealthy, and pretty ass-backwards, way.

Because we are not machines. We are animals. And we’d do a lot better building our routines after our mammal counterparts. Not only will we be happier and healthier, but we’ll actually be far more productive in the end.

On top of this, it is a radical act to refuse to cow to the dictums of capitalism. And to refuse to offer up our creativity (only) in its service. Yes, we can be productive, and yes, we can make money with our work and our art, but we do not have to lay all of our time and energy and productivity on the altar of capital.

I recognize that it is a privilege to be able to adjust my schedule (at least to a degree) to my own prerogatives, and the last thing I want to do is induce (more) shame for people who don’t get to make those choices. What I do hope to do is encourage and perhaps offer permission to make adjustments and choices as best you can within whatever constraints you have, to prioritize and dignify downtime—time daydreaming or sitting or sleeping more or taking an extra break or whatever you need/can.

This is a big topic, so for the next couple weeks, I will post tips for focusing on and tapping into your body to elude some of the constraints of capitalistic modes and models for production, and to create new and healthier patterns.

TIP # 1 . Pay Attention to Cycles

I have come to really track and have great respect for cycles, both in the natural world and in my own body—and, most especially, the deep reciprocal relationship between the two. As a person with a uterus and ovaries, my menstrual and hormonal cycles are a very obvious place to start. I track both my own cycle and that of the moon (which usually line up quite closely), and create different routines and expectations for productivity during different phases of both. Research is finding that even folks who do not have menstrual cycles have cyclical processes in their bodies and hormonal fluctuations, so this can apply to everyone.

I find it to be almost a guarantee that I will be more productive and more social around the full moon (and the waxing period leading up to it), and need more time for introversion, rest and breaks from work near the new moon (and the waning beforehand). This matches and makes sense with the folk and farming wisdom of planting during the new moon, and the growth that occurs in the waxing period. I’m also more extroverted (not to mention sexual) when I am ovulating, and much less when I’m menstruating.

I find a similar pattern matches up with the yearly cycle of seasons. I am more productive (and outgoing and extroverted and have a higher sexual drive) in late winter and spring, after the holidays and the solstice (which is analogous in many ways to a new moon). As the plants begin to grow, underground at first, and then emerge to meet the waxing sunlight (in the northern hemisphere), I too find myself willing and able to stretch and grow and accomplish many things. Come fall and early winter, I need to sleep, eat more and “do” less.

Now, I’d love to say that I match all of my work and scheduling to these cycles—but the truth is that nearly every November I smack right into my own (self-created) brick wall, where my body just refuses to keep up with everything I’ve put on my plate. But I’m learning to trust and listen and plan in advance for this more and more, and learning to adjust my priorities and schedule accordingly.

I’m beginning to at least consider the cycles of nature and my body and work them into my routines, plans and goals. I encourage you to start paying attention to the natural and corporeal cycles around and in you (watch plants, animals, the sun, the moon) and note if they have any effect on your moods and creativity and output. If so, begin keeping that in mind as you plan and schedule and set goals and intentions for yourself.

Follow the series for more tips on listening to your body for heightened creativity. On Refusal, Tip # 2 Taking Time Off, Tip #3 Meet Your Body’s Basic Needs, and more to come!

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash