“A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.” — Helen Dunmore
Other writers have also found that physical activity plays a role in their creativity. The January 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest touched on this in an article “If Walls Could Talk” by Joy Lanzendorfer. (I could not find this article on line.) Lanzendorfer visited the writing spaces of a number of famous authors and shared the lessons she took away from those visits.
She reports that Lousia May Alcott was a runner. Alcott also climbed trees and jumped fences), activity that gave her the energy to write Little Women. Poet Robinson Jeffers split his days between writing and gathering the boulders he used to build his house. Lanzendorfer’s conclusion is that there is a “connection between the moving body and the thinking mind.” And that “Even just a walk through the neighborhood can invigorate writing in unexpected ways.”
I’ve found that walking yields writing benefits for me, too. An early morning walk clears the nighttime cobwebs so I sit down to write with a clear head. A mid-day walk offers a break from the keyboard, loosening my neck and shoulders at the same time it seems to loosen my brain. Sometimes I step out with a particular dialogue or plot problem I’m puzzling over. More often, I make it a point not to think consciously about my writing. It is surprising how many times I return to my desk with a new thought, a clearer thought, about how to tackle the next page.
I don’t know how it works or why. Perhaps for the same reason people facing a difficult decision are often advised to “Sleep on it.” Stepping away from a problem lets our subconscious minds work their magic. In any case, it’s nice to know all my walking does serve a purpose. And here I thought I was just procrastinating!
My guess is that many forms of exercise accomplish the same end. Is exercise part of your writing routine? I hope you’ll take a moment and share your experience.