Writers and Exercise

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Besides diets, one of the most ubiquitous New Year resolutions has to be to improve physical fitness levels. Personally, in 2011, I’m committing to battling the bulge of my tummy which every day more closely resembles that of Poppin’ Fresh (the Pillsbury Dough Boy). I had started some semblance of a workout routine in early December, but the holidays pretty well sabotaged the best of plans. Now, in the quiet lull of this year’s beginning, it’s time to reach for my free weights once again and start doing sit-ups.

But if you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard people talk about the whole “butt in chair” approach to the art. That is: if you’re constantly distracted by dirty dishes, laundry, Facebook, your blog, the landscape outside your window, etc. etc., you’re not being much of a writer. You’ve got to keep your butt in your chair, your fingers poised over the keyboard, if you’re going to be a productive writer.

On one hand we know we need to treat our bodies with respect. On the other hand we know we have to treat writing with respect. Making time for each of these things takes away time from the other thing. Which begs the question:

Can you resolve to be both physically fit and a productive writer for 2011?

I say, you can’t afford not to be. Unless you’re a niche writer who wants to spend their time writing about joint pain and the slow process of their body falling apart, your writing will benefit from your being physically fit. Simply put: writers need to exercise.

I do know how it goes. When you’re worried about getting in so many hours of work done every week, it’s easy to force yourself to stay stuck in front of the computer for an entire day. In these dim winter days, it seems that sun starts setting before we even have a chance to contemplate getting outside for a walk. Before we know it, we’ve managed to spend a series of days with minimal exercise and fresh air. Although we think we’re doing what needs to be done to be successful writers, in actuality, metaphorically chaining yourself to your desk can be detrimental on many levels.

For starters, that butt in the chair starts to get larger and larger. And for another thing, things grow harder and harder. Your mind gets all murky. Your writing grows dull. You start feeling stupid. And you get real, real cranky.

I find my writing rarely grows more inspired from the act of me sitting at my desk, staring into my laptop’s screen. Instead it’s during those quiet moments when I’m not training my mind on any one thing – doing the dishes, taking a shower, and, of course, exercise – that I think of the most things to write about and have the best ideas for a current WIP's direction. A large portion of my blog entries and commentaries are written in my head while walking to the mailbox.

Nathan Bransford posted on how exercise boosts creativity back in December. No writer truly benefits from growing mole-eyes at the computer. You need consistent amounts of fresh air and exercise to keep the writing enjoyable. 

You’ll feel better. Your writing will thank you. And that butt in the chair will stay a respectable size.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I find my best ideas come when I'm doing other things - including walking or exercising. If you follow the strict "butt in seat" rule, you can get burned out and and lose inspiration.

    I keep a small notebook with me at all times for when an idea strikes. If I don't write it down then, I lose it.

    I'm really enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing!


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