Nope. This isn’t a preachy blog post.
I’m not about to tell you that you should go to the gym for an hour a day, and no, I’m not about to make you vomit with photos of my rock-hard abs, because I like to keep those babies under wraps. What I’m going to tell you is that moving makes me a better writer.
You might be surprised to read that for most of my life I was a purely sedentary creature. I believed that my limbs were there for ornamental purposes only. All through school I had a pathological aversion to competitive sports. I used to wonder why anyone bothered trying to win a game of basketball. What purpose did it serve? Why would anyone risk injury over a ball? Couldn’t we all just get along and agree a shared custody arrangement over the bloody ball? It was after failing to realise I was supposed to catch a ball, and having it hit me square in the nose that I decided I’d had enough. I brought in sick notes every week for PE, and used the time to catch up on my reading. Strangely, nobody begged me to come back.
So why am I recommending exercise to you then? Am I a total hypocrite? Are you starting to have grave doubts about my rock hard abs? What the hell is this post all about?
Despite hating all forms of exercise, I force myself to do some exercise most days. I prefer to exercise alone and the exercise I least despise is walking. Occasionally, if I’m feeling particularly frisky I might even manage a bit of running. It’s not too hard to motivate yourself when your office is beside a massive park and sometimes you get to see deer just strolling around (see photo above).
I exercise, mostly because I like food, and if I do a bit of exercise I get to eat a little bit more food. But I’ve also discovered another happy side-effect of solitary exercise: since I started writing my novel, I haven’t found anything that works better for getting me out of a rut. The tremors from physical movement appear to knock ideas from dusty, hard to reach corners of my mind. The vibrations as my feet hit the ground seem to knock creases out of plot lines and shake characters into life. They cause solutions to the biggest problems in whatever piece I’m writing to emerge from the deep recesses of my imagination.
I’ve had at least a hundred eureka moments while out walking/running. When it happens, I stop and quickly jot the idea down on my phone’s notepad. I’ve used almost everything that I’ve noted down while out exercising.
I can’t explain it. It could be that I walk/run outdoors, so I’m getting fresh air, or the increased oxygen supply to the brain from moving my body. It could be that for a short time during the working day, I’m not looking at the four walls of my cell/office. But I think it’s that other than when I’m sleeping, it’s the only time that my brain can just tick over, and I’m not distracted by a thousand other things, like work or my phone or the telly or food or people.
Maybe you’re different to me, and you find that meditation works for you, or maybe you already had this exercise-creativity thing sussed and I’m preaching to the converted, but this is a revelation to me. I didn’t realise how amazing exercise was for my mind until I started writing my novel.
If I can’t convince you, given that I have no proven track record as a novelist, then I’ll leave this here:
Stephen King walks five miles a day. Incredibly, it almost killed him, and yet, he continues to recommend it. How’s that for conviction?
Over to you: Let me know in the comments what works for you when you’re seeking out inspiration. Do you find exercise helps your writing, and if so, how? What exercise do you do?