He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. ~Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, March 1, 2015

5 Reasons Why Writers Need to Exercise

Writing is a sedentary job. You park your butt in the chair and you get to it. Some of us are lucky to have long stretches of uninterrupted creative bliss. Some have to grab an hour here, and hour there. But regardless, it's important for body, book, and soul to exercise, and it's SUPER easy to neglect that, especially whilst in the throes of creative fury.

And while it's common knowledge (though not necessarily practice) that exercise in general is good for us, for writers there are some distinct, added bonuses.

1. Mood Boosting

I don't know about you, but I can't write in a funk. Every sentence is terrible, every word is boring, and the whole thing sucks everyone is better than me, this is a giant waste of time and why amIdoingthistomyself??? We've all been there, but we don't have to stay there. Talk a walk. Go for a run. Get those serotonin levels up. The higher the better. So after a brisk walk or run, you come back to your work and you realize it doesn't suck the big one like you thought it did, and while it may need some fixes, you can tell the difference between a sharp edit and thinking the whole thing belongs in a bonfire.

2. Can help erase writer's block.

Now, I'm not a big believer in writer's block if the definition is "sitting there, staring at the screen, having no idea how to proceed or what needs to come next."  To me, that's a symptom of a larger problem and we just call it "writer's block."  If I'm ever faced with that phenomenon, I know it's not a block, it's a mistake. If I was rolling along, typing away and all of a sudden I'm "blocked", I know that somewhere I screwed up. The narrative went off the rails. A chapter written in Character A's POV should actually be in Character B's., etc. I go back to where I was doing really well, and just ahead of that I'll usually find what went wrong.  Where the exercise comes in is how to fix it.

Serotonin, apart from being a mood-booster, is also responsible for the speed in which messages are moved around ye olde nervous system. So once I've identified my problem area, I'll usually discover how to fix it during my six mile run. It is so much easier to untangle something this way, as opposed to staring with frustrated impotence at the screen. I find too, that if I step away from the words, I can more easily come back and change/delete them if I need to. You can't murder your darlings if they're staring up at you, all cutesy-like saying, "But you already wrote us, therefore you must use us. It's too much hassle to kill us all and start over, amirite?" Not so. Take a walk, come back, and you'll find swinging the axe is suddenly a helluva lot easier.

And on that note, ideas and exercise go hand-in-hand, and sometimes can just jump out at you when you didn't even know you were searching. The idea for my third novel came to me in mile 5 of my 6 mile run in the form of a conversation between the two leads. It was like I was eavesdropping, it was so clear and detailed. I raced home, wrote it down, and from that convo sprung the entire premise of Book III.

3. Not doing it is bad for you, period.

Some people who have jobs in which they sit at a desk and think they're better off than people who race around on their feet all day. While neither extreme is optimal, sitting is NOT healthier. Not by a long shot. The health problems associated with sitting all day are starting to make themselves known in the medical community in the form of back problems, poor circulation, increased risk of diabetes, obesity, muscle problems, etc. (Google "sitting all day" and you can see for yourself)

I invested in a stand-up desk. I don't stand all day to write, but I split my time. 20 minutes up, 20 minutes down, to keep the blood (and ideas) flowing. It's very, very easy to let hours slip by in the chair, but those hours add up, and the last thing I want is to be plagued by poor health. Writing is hard enough as it is!

4. Get inspired

While sometimes there is nothing--nothing--I want more but to hole up in my darkened room and write by candlelight and coffee, it actually pays to get out into the world. People watching, beautiful views, spectacular architecture, street music, snippets of conversation, sunsets...you just never know where and when inspiration can strike. Plus, it's a huge, fantastic world out there. Take a walk in it...and bring something to write those ideas down, because we all know a good idea loves nothing more than taking a writer unaware.

5. Live long and prosper

This one sort of goes with number 3, but I want to keep doing this writing thing for a long, long time.  I don't want my body to break down, leaving me to struggle to get words on the page while suffering some ailment or pain. I want my body to be a powerful, strong tool that I keep in good working order so that I can continue to do what I love to do.

I do not believe old age starts at 40. I don't believe in little aches and pains being the signs of "getting old." I think getting old starts when we neglect the machine that is our body and it starts to show it. When we start to give up on it, and start thinking, "it's all downhill from here."

I ran my first half marathon at age 40. I'm going to run a full one by age 42, and in the meanwhile, write four books a year. I want my mind AND body to be sharp for as long as they can be, so I can keep doing what I love to do for as long as I want to do it. I want to quit on my terms, if I ever do. Not have to give it up because I failed to take care of myself.

I don't want to take any stories with me when I go, and I don't want you to either.

And because that's a sort of morbid thought, here's a pic of a super cute kitten.

Happy writing!