When the Inkwell Dries Up: Exercise

runningDear Reader,

I used to question and doubt the existence of writer’s block. That was before I started to go through prolonged periods of feeling like I had nothing to say. While I now do believe in writer’s block, I also believe that there are certain steps one can take to get through this period, however long it lasts. It is my hope that this series will be a resource for those who don’t know what to write about, are stuck in their current project, or just want to try something new.

The first thing I can recommend is exercise. Physical activity is a great way to get rid of unwanted thoughts pertaining to your writing project. It’s a break. You can do whatever you like during this time. As long as you are moving your body, you are doing something “right” (from an exercise standpoint). Usually, though it is a break, there is some thought process required for exercising. If you are running, for example, you must remember to move one leg in front of the other. If you are having a difficult mental day, you may have to continually remind yourself, “Move the left leg, move the right leg.” If this is all you want to focus on for the exercise session, go for it and let your brain temporarily downgrade to autopilot mode.

However, if you are ready for more of a challenge, exercise also allows you to think about what you are going through in your writing project. After all, while exercise does require some mental thought, it may not always be on par with the mental thinking that writing requires. This goes especially for activities that use repetitive motions (like, once again, running). In reality, it would be pretty difficult to sustain an activity while thinking of absolutely nothing the entire time. The brain spins. The mind wanders. And suddenly, an idea springs about. You have a greater chance of this happening if you are outdoors and/or surrounded by people, as people are always up to strange activities. Even looking outside of a window may do. And if, at the end of it, you don’t get any thoughts down, you were at least able to temporarily move away from the all-consuming, terribly inefficient task of banging your head on the desk, waiting for that magic idea to spring up.

What about you? Do you exercise? If so, do you find it helps your work process before, during, or after your session is up?


Jumbled Writer

*Photo Courtesy of hyena reality from freedigitalphotos.net.


14 Responses to When the Inkwell Dries Up: Exercise

  1. I’m not one for writer’s block usually, but if I do dry up a bit I always find that writing about not having anything to write about does the trick. I generally find that a post started like that tends to evolve into a rambling, stream of consciousness type of affair, which can kickstart the blogging muscles.

  2. I don’t have a regular exercise routine, but I’ve found that doing housework or shoveling snow is a good time to brainstorm. I once came up with an idea for an entire novel while mopping the floor. So, yes. I agree with you that any repetitive, physical activity can help overcome writers block. Great series, JW!

    • Somewhat similar to that, I think it was Agatha Christie who said that washing dishes was the perfect time to plot out murder (stories, of course). Something about the repetition is ideal for dreaming.

  3. I will agree that exercise is a great suggestion, if just to reduce the anxiety of not being able to write. It should be included in my schedule, but I let it slide too many times. Great topic to discuss, JW, as I think many writers find themselves confronted with this phenomenon.

  4. I’m a firm believer in this one – especially the long distance running. Though I suppose it’s trickier to do in some climates at this time of year!

    The half hour jog, preferably by water/on nature trails, is a wonderful thing for all the reasons you detailed nicely above. Good post!

  5. I have the opposite problem. I have a hard time shutting up. It seems I can’t read a book or an article or something on the web that doesn’t inspire some sort of commentary. I’ve been trying to back off from writing on my primary blog daily (I have another, older blog that I write on only sparingly) but it’s been really tough.

    I suppose I’ve experienced writer’s block in relation to specific projects, but that’s only because an outside editor has set the topic and the standards for what is to be written. Even then, it wasn’t a block in the sense that I didn’t know what to say, but rather, how to say it and what information to add or withhold.

    • I would think that not knowing how to say something could be considered a form of a block. Anything that prevents the words from coming. I too have been blocked by outside editors, especially when there was the additional “pressure” (imaginary or not) of trying to say the right thing and get good grades (if it was for school).

      • Editorial disagreements are a fact of life. I figured out in any such discussions, I have to decide of the issue is something I can live without, in which case, I’ll go with the editor’s suggestion, something we can compromise about in some way, or something I can’t live without and I need the editor to agree with me. Once I look at the writing through that lens, things become clear very quickly.

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