Writing and Exercise (Revisited) with Tracey Kathryn
Writing and Movement: How Not Thinking Boosts Creativity
Last month I wrote a blog post about the New York Pitch Conference. It was an excellent learning experience, and I recommend the event for those interested in commercial fiction. (Key takeaways were being open-minded about change, learning to pitch, and glimpsing the underbelly of the New York publishing world.)
During the event, I met a fabulous writer who was diligent about exercise. While most of us were sleeping, she was getting her miles in by walking the treadmill in her hotel or running the city streets. I was impressed with her ability to forgo sleep, push away the computer, and make time for her physical well-being. Also in attendance at the conference were several yoga enthusiasts. These ladies had a wonderful calmness in their philosophies about exercise and writing. It was fantastic to meet writers who understood the need to move their muscles in addition to their fingers on a keyboard. What is it about movement that fuels writing?
A Tired Horse
“A tired horse is a good horse,” I say. During my years of riding horses, training always included plenty of free time. Horses are big, energetic animals; thus, they need big spaces and lots of time to buck, squeal, and play. Getting all that out before attempting to ride and train is paramount. Regularly, too. Animals respond to the security of freedom and unrestrained movement; making them part of learning makes training time more effective. I believe it kept my mare’s mind fresh. The time I spent with my horse wasn’t just about gaining new knowledge. My horse and I could just be; I could lean on a fencepost and watch my favorite animal rolling in the sand, and she could enjoy a good back scratch. Neither of us was worried about deadlines or learning anything new. We were just enjoying one another’s company—and carrots, too, of course. She and I both had our fair share of carrots.
In 2017, I wrote a blog post about how exercise fuels writing. This year, I’m revisiting that concept but adding in something else: Mindlessness. I say that mindlessness movement fuels the creative spirit.
Writers on the Run
We’re at the mercy of schedules these days. Family time, work, and social events—not to mention social media—dictate how we spend time. Quiet moments are few. Scheduling time for a walk outdoors to find a fence post to lean on isn’t something we do, unfortunately. As for creative thinking, who has time to contemplate ideas while sitting on a tree stump? (I had a friend who had a tree stump in her backyard. Her dad had smoothed its top and the thing had a great view of the countryside. Anytime someone in the family had a problem to solve, he or she was advised to take a walk, then have a seat on the stump to think for a bit. My friend said her dad’s philosophy worked wonders.)
I enjoy a good workout—but I schedule it. Each week, I check out the classes at my gym and plan around them. While I’m doing that, my dog usually is looking at me. He glances from me to his leash, waiting for our stroll through the neighborhood. Or, even better, he’d enjoy a ride to the dog park where he races to and fro, living in the freedom of the moment. I say we all should do more of that: Bark like mad and run about, bounce around without a care. Stop when we’re panting and exhausted.
Sounds a bit crazy but I mean it. Well, perhaps not the barking part. But mindless movement—otherwise known as play?—helps when we’re stuck. In life, in relationships, or with a paragraph, sometimes it’s best to let things go, step outside, and just be.
It’s hard to believe that I’m advocating doing something that’s not accomplished according to a schedule; I am programmed to plan ahead. Perhaps it’s the long, cold winter that’s fueling my desire to fly high on a swing set or pedal a bike that actually moves toward the horizon. Or, it’s the friend who just emailed and said she’s invited some neighborhood children over to eat candy, celebrate St. Pat’s, and just enjoy the moment. It’s been a long time since I’ve done nothing with intention, but it’s time to fuel my creative side and do it again.
Happy (doing nothing while) writing!