Do a Writing Exercise, Break a Sweat
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
Most physicians wouldn't recommend writing for cardiovascular health. The image of the writer bent over their desk, surrounded by dirty dishes and stacks of paper--evidence that they've barely moved in days--is cemented in our collective imagination. I am here to tell you that . . . well, okay, that happens sometimes. But it doesn't change the fact that moving your body is an excellent way to energize your writing.
As anyone who has suffered from writer's block can tell you, staring at a blank page is not particularly stimulating to the linguistic juices. But even staring at a page full of words and trying to read and re-read, edit and nitpick, preen and refine can create a kind of stagnation. You may feel like a 1940s newsroom cliche, pacing the room with a notebook in hand, but it works.
Better than wearing out the path between your desk chair and the window, of course, is actually going outside, getting your heart-rate up, and breaking a sweat. Even light exercise can boost your cognition. Don't believe me? Ask Harvard Medical School. While medical studies tend to focus on general brain functioning over the long term, the effects on writing can be immediate.
There's something about the rhythm of a body in motion, the intake of breath, the dynamic flow of scenery as you go. There's something about patches of light and shadow, the faint spitting of an overcast day, the ebbing thump of a car's speakers as it passes. It is an influx of material--a precious commodity to the writer. In motion, you are confronted with the world to which all words refer and from which they come. You are grounded in the physical, the actual. The flawed and necessary machine of the body moves us forward, just as our writing should.
Whatever you're writing, I encourage you to try taking it out for a spin before you send it off. Teachers in Australia are experimenting with physical movement for student writers. There's no reason you shouldn't jump on the bandwagon, too. Or off the bandwagon? Hitching a ride on a wagon seems counterproductive. Well, you get the idea. Get up, get moving--and don't forget to bring something to write with.