Thanks so much to everyone who read my last post. It seriously warms my heart the response I got from folks who enjoyed reading my “Writing is…THIS” post. THAT…was awesome.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where writers get their inspiration. Ernest Hemingway said writers should write everyday and stop writing once they know what’s going to come next in the story. Basically, once you are on a roll and know where your story is going next, you should stop writing for the day (or night). Just save and minimize your Word document and step away from your keyboard.
But how do you get on a roll in the first place? Metaphorically speaking of course. Don’t actually attempt to put yourself on a slice of bread in order to write.
Or do that. Feel free to do whatever you need to do.
A writer needs to harness his or her creativity and tap into the source of inspiration. I think the number one best way to do that is to read. Start a new book, finish something you’ve been reading, and read articles. Another good piece of advice when you’ve got writer’s block is to read over everything you’ve written, step away from the piece, and then go back to it.
For me, stepping away involves physical activity (quite literally!). I tweeted earlier today that I get some of my best ideas while running. The only way I can make running bearable for myself is to listen to music while running.
During the turn of the millennium I used to run with this in my hand:
No, that’s not a magical portal to an alternate universe. That, my friends, is a Discman, Sony’s precursor to the iPod. This one is state of the art. It is shock proof. That means as the Discman jostles around in your hand during a run, the laser won’t scratch your CD and destroy it. The Discman is heavy. My right bicep surely got a workout carrying this thing in my hand when I ran.
That is dedication to a musically infused run.
Now, I’ll be working on something during the day, and then I’ll think about it before I go to sleep. When I wake up in the morning, if I go for a two or three mile run with my iPhone earbuds in, I have a better likelihood of sorting out the problem. There’s something about the fresh air and the exertion of running that clears my head, and erases the clutter and noise that can cloud one’s perception. If I’m struggling with a plot point in a narrative, or I’m trying to figure out if a piece of dialogue makes sense for a character, what seemed so realistic sitting in my chair at 10:00 pm listening to Sting can suddenly seem pretentious when I’m sweating away on my AM run listening to Big Sean.
This morning, I ran along a hilly country road covered in trees with red and orange leaves that hadn’t yet fallen. There was a crispness in the air, but it wasn’t hand-numbing cold. I wore spandex pants and a sweatshirt, and as I ran up the first hill my limbs warmed up and it seemed my brain warmed up too. This is almost certainly a sign that I’m not running vigorously enough, because if I were really pushing myself of course my mind would be blank except for random thoughts like “eye of the tiger” and “no pain, no pain!” But I’m not training for anything right now, except for finishing my book. When I reached the halfway point of my run, which is a concrete road bridge over a bubbling stream, I leaned over the waist-high guardrail and looked at the running water below me for a while. In the summer ducks swim here. This particular morning the water ran clear and cold and you could hear nothing but the sound of the gurgling stream. No cars were passing. Occasionally a crow cawed out.
I turned around and ran back, my sneakered feet pounding up the hill to the beat of Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” blasting in my earbuds.
(Yes, I bought Taylor Swift’s new album. I contributed to her 1.3 million sales. Despite my earlier rant, I drank the Taylor Kool-Aid. I’m not the only one:
When I’m running, I’m in my own world daydreaming about stories, but it’s this weird uber-focused world where physical exertion equates with mental clarity.
Disclaimer: I do lookout for cars, and I stay on the sidewalk when I run. Don’t get run over. That won’t help your writing.
I recommend running, or walking, or swimming, or tennis-playing, or treadmill walking, or jazzercizing, or whatever form of physical activity you prefer to clear your head, improve your outlook for the day, and help you be the best writer you can be.
However, be wary of falling in the trap of using your inspirational exercise as an excuse to yourself that you are too tired to write. It’s like being the one who always volunteers to go to the grocery store, or pick up things on the way home, etc. to avoid the big W word: writing.
Don’t use exercise to run from writing, use running to excite your writing.