Out of the chair

I am not the most active of people. Left to my own devices, I’d spend most evenings sacked out on the couch with a book or watching weird stuff on YouTube.  However, for a number of reasons ranging from sartorial concerns to general health to body image issues, I try to make it to the gym a couple of times a week.  And, strangely enough, it’s turned out to be more than just a drain on my time.

Writing is such a sedentary process that it’s hard to remember how relevant physical activity can be.  After all, once you’ve spent a lot of willpower actually putting your butt in the chair to work, it’s tough to get your butt back out of that chair.  

I know several writers who make a point of devoting time to different and unusual physical activities — belly dancing, blacksmithing, etc. — and find ways to tie that back into their work and life.  For me, though, exercise is a necessary evil.  But I’ve also discovered that something about intense physical activity triggers the plotting centers of my brain.  Maybe it’s just that I’m stuck in one place doing repetitive motion without anything to occupy my attention (I can’t read while I work out; if the story is distracting enough to catch me, it’s distracting enough to slow me down); maybe it’s some combination of endorphins and exhaustion, but either way, I’ve come up with some of my best plots at the gym.  

It works in a milder fashion as well; if I have a particular plot problem I need to work out, I take a long walk.  No headphones, no book, just the activity of walking for a couple of hours and, if need be, muttering to myself.  (That’s right, I’m the crazy lady talking to herself about people who don’t exist.  It’s good to be a writer.)

This doesn’t mean that I exercise more often, unfortunately.  Getting those plot ideas ironed out doesn’t help with getting them on the page, so I still have to devote time to the butt-in-chair part of writing.  But it’s a good incentive to know that I’m exercising not just my body, but my mind as well, when I’m stuck on the damn elliptical machine again.

What gets you back out of the chair?  Does exercise help you in your creative pursuits, or does it just leave you drained and with muscles like noodles?  (Or both?)

3 Responses to “Out of the chair”

  1. 1 rachelaaron
    May 7, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    “f need be, muttering to myself. (That’s right, I’m the crazy lady talking to herself about people who don’t exist. It’s good to be a writer.)”

    THIS IS ME. We live by a river, and when I’m really stuck, I walk my dog up and down it, talking to myself furiously. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m absolutely insane, especially since I’m usually working out things like what drives my swordsman to fight or how this villain needs at LEAST four stab wounds to die, because no bad guy of mine is going out like a punk!

    Yeah, strange looks…

  2. 2 mlronald
    May 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Well, there are enough crazy muttering people nearby that I blend in well. And at least I look harmless enough.

    Where it gets really weird is when I need a partner for fight choreography. “Hey [resident organist}! Come over here so I can see if it’s possible to strangle someone from this angle! And bring a blunt instrument — I might have to revise this part.”

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