Confession time. How much exercise have you done today? How about yesterday? Over the course of the past week? And why am I talking about exercise on a blog meant to discuss writing? Because getting your body up and moving is good for your plotlines.
Want to Write Better? Move Into Creativity
Bottom line first: physical activity is good for your brain, and what's good for your brain is great for your writing (unless you're not a human but one of those AI wanna-be novelists). So choose your juice: running, swimming, cycling, weightlifting, pilates, yoga, or the occasional triathlon. Just make sure you get cardio in there. That's the perfect antidote to sitting at your desk moving no muscle—er, sorry, tendon—other than your fingers on the keyboard.
Write Better Morning or Night
We writers are notorious exercise abstainers. No, not all of us (and certainly not YOU), but enough of us to warrant this blog post. After all, who wouldn’t rather spend a glorious sunlit morning crafting the world’s next literary magnum opus rather than sweating it out the way all those high-powered, over-achieving, billionaire powerhouses do (supposedly) every day at 5am sharp?
You couldn’t pay me enough to spend my morning in the gym, overachiever status be damned. Yoga and feeding the hummingbirds, yes, every time. But there’s a reason for that—that's what resonates for me. Every body is different; we each have our own unique biorhythms, and my body is not an early exercising bird. At least not physically—mentally, I can be up at 5 or 6 and write for three or four hours straight.
However, come late afternoon or evening, I hit the pavement. I’m a runner. I run for thirty minutes in the park across the street, blissfully plugged into my headphones. There’s nothing in the world that can top that feeling.
Except chocolate, but that's another post for another time.
The Writer’s High
For us scribes, the runner’s high has a sister benefit: the writer’s high. If you run, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that state of pure ecstasy you reach when you hit your stride, when your muscles no longer ache, and you feel like you could run forever. And if you didn't have that manuscript to finish, you probably would.
When you run, you’re unplugged from everything except the fresh air around you. You’re unplugged from all those interruptors that are so detrimental to literary creation: email, social media, traffic, conference calls and client deadlines, grocery lists and family obligations.
It's that unbridled, energized freedom and energy that running gives you that generate creativity. I’ve untied many a pesky literary knot and brewed up lots of fresh new ideas for my stories while running. I've come up with plotlines, titles, dialogue, even marketing strategies—ideas and angles that might not have occurred to me if I had staid home.
There’s something about movement that refreshes those mental circuits. Gets the emotional (read: creative) juices gushing. Stirs up new images, associations, metaphors. You don't have to take up running, per se—but do work in a good workout, make it a regular part of your writing routine, and you'll see how fast that blinking cursor will disappear.
What are you still doing in that chair? Get out there!
Note: The original version of this post was first published on The Write Practice on September 3, 2014.