Keep moving
by Robert Genn

April 21, 2009

Dear Rodney,

When I was a teenager, I read a book by a hugely successful baseball 
player. He hadn't always been successful, though. Early in his career, 
reporters referred to him as "poky" and "slow off the mark." While 
he was talented and capable, he was on his way to the bush leagues 
when he saw the light. He got the idea that if he just started jumping 
around and looking active, he might build enthusiasm and proficiency. 
Reporters started saying he had "ants in his pants," calling him 
"Fireball," etc. Fact is, his game improved when he started jumping 
around.

Recent research at the University of Central Florida in Orlando 
indicates that children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity 
Disorder) may appear to be distracted by all that jumping and 
wiggling, but it's really an effective method of keeping themselves 
focused. Teachers are now being advised to let the ADHD kids fiddle. 
While only about 3 to 5 percent of kids have ADHD, lots of others 
have it to a mild degree and many creative adults have it in spades.

While I'm a guy who mostly sits at an easel, I've always recognized 
the value of standing. Standing gives a painter more kinetic 
opportunity. Body movement and physical action become part of the 
creative act. At the same time, even an easily-propelled rolling 
chair can add to the art energy. Artists' studios may be sanctuaries 
of soft music and prevailing peace, but artists themselves need to 
be whirling dervishes within them. A little calmness is a dangerous 
thing. Elbows out and flailing, back and forth, here and there, the 
active artist keeps the adrenalin flowing, the ideas evolving and 
the work falling from the easel. Curiously, the artist who jumps 
around is less likely to fiddle with his work.

Teddy Roosevelt, late of the Rough Riders, advocated "the active 
life." He had the idea that mankind needed sheer movement to thrive 
and evolve. Not just a matter of jumping on the horse and riding 
off in all directions; human action also needed self direction and 
self management.

In their observation of remote cultures, anthropologists often find 
wild action and compulsive movement to be the precursors of skills 
and proficiency. It stands to reason this might work in our relatively 
sedentary culture. We may get better at what we do when we keep 
moving.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Everything is in motion. Everything flows. Everything is 
vibrating." (Dr. Wayne Dyer) "Learning is movement from moment to 
moment." (Jiddu Krishnamurti) "It is difficult to steer a parked 
car, so get moving." (Henrietta Mears)

Esoterica: The physicality of "plein-air" work is a good example. 
Getting the equipment out of the car, dragging it to the location, 
setting up and fighting the elements are all part of the action. In 
a way, every new set-up is out of the comfort zone. I've found 
that simply moving around magnifies the sense of event and stimulates 
quicker thinking. Last summer in the Rockies, we spied a young woman 
who was jogging in a tight circle around her easel. "It clears 
the brain," she told us later by the fire. "We have to keep moving. 
Otherwise we're slugs."