Our artist in residence Alec Finlay shares his feelings about why creativity matters and how winter can be a time to slow down, notice what’s in your environment, and let nature inspire your thinking in different ways.
Why does creativity matter?
Creativity is a playful way to be in touch with the places we walk in and it also helps us imagine how to change the world. For instance, I’m interested in how old place-names can remind us what grew in a place in the past, and perhaps inspire us to renew a wood that’s been lost or rediscover an old drove road.
I notice with walking groups how they come to care for the landscapes they walk in and, often, that leads them to want to improve them, adding benches, improving paths and signage, or planting trees. Winter is a good time to think about what we’d like to change in the coming year.
By being creative we can recover a sense of belonging – whether we are limited by illness, or rules that are intended to keep us safe. If we are unable to walk or walk far, we can imagine walks, using maps, place-names, and audio recordings, and that helps us make a restful time in the day.
How can being creative help our mental health?
Simply moving helps soothe our mind and being creative adds to that. Exercise is a physical thing, but creativity adds a space in which you can be vulnerable or expressive, in a relaxed way. It’s been a strange time – the pandemic has felt extraordinary and ordinary, and there’s been some real fear, as well as a sense of anxiety bubbling under the surface. We’ve all lived very different lives – some people being in crowded and boisterous homes, others being isolated and seeing hardly anyone for months – but I think we’ve all noticed how friends have hit a wall, at some point, going quiet, hiding away, or turning inwards. Sharing a creative idea can be a way to begin a conversation or get said something that needs to be, which you’ve not known how to put into words.
A friend was telling me that they give thanks for three things every night before they go to bed, and it’s helped them to sleep better. That’s something you can also do on a walk. Another friend is weaving a traditional Japanese rope to go around a Douglas Fir that she and her son become fond of during lockdown.
What do you like about winter?
I like the winter ending! Well, I suppose I love the pink sunsets we get, in the afternoon, and the smell of the cold. And from my living room, I love to see how the snow reveals the old paths on the Pentland hills. And I like to see the woolly hats and scarves that come out, like flowers.
Get creative on your winter walks
We will be sharing a range of Creative Walking ideas, forms, and prompts, to help you support your mental wellbeing and show that there are lots of ways to make a short winter walk memorable and enjoyable. These are all very easy forms to use and they will help you appreciate things that sometimes go unnoticed.
Alec and his friends have also created a Creative Tool-kit for Covid-19 with lots of ideas for everyone to be inventive in their walking and help people to adapt to challenging and changing times. As well as encouraging you to go outdoors in a safe way, these ideas can also be used to keep your mind active, be creative, and do gentle exercises indoors during winter.