I used to have a tug-of-war relationship between writing and working out. When I get stuck into my writing, I get stuck and nothing can pull me out of it for the next few hours. After all, all writers know that when you’ve hit that wonderful magical ‘flow’, when the muse has come to visit and words are just flowing out of your fingers and onto the page and the inspiration is endless… well… who has time to stop and go to the gym?
But. Exercise is really important for writers. After all, writing is essentially a desk job. You’re spending hours on your butt, completely sedentary, hardly moving, probably inspiring deep vein thrombosis in the legs and carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrists, plus you’re also most likely indulging in a little snacky-snack time while you write. (I mean, you need to feed your brain too!). And if you’re a full-time worker and part-time writer, you could very easily go from sitting all day at the office to sitting all day at home writing. Not good, especially when boffins are calling sitting the new smoking!
Sometimes just forcing yourself to get up and move around, to take a breather from the laptop, is a good thing. And I’m going to give you a few reasons as to why:
Sometimes you just need a break.
When the muse has come calling and the words don’t stop flowing, that is the perfect writing session that all writers long to achieve. But all too often, writers can often be found slumped in front of the screen, complete uninspired and unmotivated in the face of too many draft pages that need reworking or…well… just too many blank pages ahead of you. It can be daunting and it can feel impossible. I’ve been there too (way too many times) and oftimes I just try to put my head down and power through the words.
But if you’ve just spent the last hour rewriting the same sentence to no avail, maybe it’s time to take a break. Get up and have a stretch. Take a walk or a light jog around the block. Get the blood pumping and some fresh air in your veins. Go for a swim or to that yoga class. And perhaps when you come back, your mind will be fresher and better able to tackle that problem.
A break is also a great way to blast through that writer’s block.
Running, in my opinion, is a great time to start working out those knotty plot points. It’s a win-win situation because going through my plot in my head also takes my mind off the number of kilometres I have left on my run! (And as any running enthusiast can tell you, that mental block is probably the biggest obstacle a runner can encounter). When I’m out running or walking, I fall into a near-meditative state – my breathing is steady, my pace is steady and my mind is free to wander as it will – usually into the pages of my book. I have also spent time planning a mental dot point outline of what to write next in my draft. (I have also spent an entire run laying out a complete fantasy life where I meet Prince William, we fall in love, the secret first dates we go on, how the press find us out and breaks the news to the world, I’d be introduced to the royal family, doubts and outrage from the public, fighting with Will and working through all the uncertainty and doubts – but of course true love will win out and we’d start planning our royal wedding… well, you get the gist! Similar scenarios have also occurred with Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Hemsworth. What can I say, I’m fickle. But planning a royal wedding is fun and keeps me going when I start to crack in that last two kilometres or so).
By the way, this is something Stephen King does too (working out plot points on his long walks, I mean, not planning his wedding with Prince William), so you’re in company with the greats! (Note: King also got seriously injured when he was hit by a van while on one of these walks so just make sure you stay aware of your surroundings, even when you’re concentrating hard on your plot and pumping those legs at the same time.)
It’s a great way to incorporate some research for your book.
Perhaps you have a character who’s into rock climbing. Or there’s a major fencing duel at the climax of your book. Maybe nunchuks and throwing stars feature heavily in your story. Or you’ve got a character who does yoga or is a runner or a boxing enthusiast. Well, there’s nothing like trying out the sport to get an idea of what it’s like so you can write about it in authentic fashion for your book!
Healthy body = healthy mind.
This is a bit cliché, but it’s so true. I find if I’ve gotten a workout in, I feel so much better and energized, and my mind feels much fresher and I’m ready to tackle the day (and my writing) with full vigor. A balanced life is always best! And at the end of it, even if you’ve not got any further in your book, at least you’ve toned up some muscles in those legs. That sense of accomplishment alone will leave you feeling more productive, hence more positive, and you’ll feel better able to tackle your writing the following day.
It’s a great way to experience the world.
Sometimes, it’s good to get out of your own little writer’s world and into the real world. After all, it’s a great way to observe the world around you – and what are writers, if not observers of the world? You might see something interesting as you’re doing your stand-up paddle boarding at the local lake or hiking through your friendly neighbourhood woods, maybe something that might jog your memory about an interesting plot point or some cool or funny incident you might save up to incorporate in your work-in-progress later on. At the very least, it offers you a fresh pair of eyes – and also rescues your eyes from staring at the computer screen for far too long.