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The Writing Life: Exercise

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Work, caring for a home, kids of any age, setting boundaries to give ourselves time to write—where does exercise fit in? Who has time for that? Writing is a sedentary activity and it’s important to read if we want to write, but that’s also a sedentary activity. The writing life is filled with coffee or tea and a lot of sitting around! But our doctor and spouse and kids aren’t going to accept that excuse for our extra weight, high-blood pressure, and bad cholesterol levels.

There are as many solutions to this looming problem with the writing life as there are genres of books. Let’s look at the ones that we can work into the writing sessions we already have walled off in our schedule.

The easiest is to follow the adage to stand up and get your circulation moving for fifteen minutes every hour. Sometimes it’s easier to say seven minutes every half hour instead. Setting an alarm on your phone works well here. Write for thirty minutes, or, if you reach a stopping point and need to stare at the wall for a few minutes before tackling the next paragraph or scene, stand up! Swing your arms, march in place, take a short, brisk walk around your home or coffee shop or wherever you are, if you can do so without being drawn off course by someone needing you. Isometrics, in that case—stand, tighten each muscle group and hold before releasing, repeat—or sit-ups and leg-lifts, or cardio in place, jumping jacks, cross-punching, burpees, if you have the room. Ten sun salutations works, too!

Does it seem silly doing a very short burst of exercise before you sit back down and attack your writing again? Yes, but effective at not only seeing a difference in your health over time, but also energizing your brain and jump-starting you into your next writing task. It’s amazing how many times my characters decide they can do something that makes a difference in the storyline after I rev my body back up. And yes, even if you sit and bounce and post on an exercise ball or the like at your writing surface, you still need some whole-body movement every hour.

If you need more motivation there are several different treadmill desktops on the market, from a pricey $600 (and more!) full desk to a $40 minimal laptop/iPad holder. Just Google “treadmill desk.” Hate the treadmill? Try using a voice-activated recorder while you walk or hike. Or exercise as you wish while dictating to a digital assistant like Dragon voice-to-text software. The advantage to learning to talk through your story out loud is threefold. Talking through your story can tap a different part of your brain and free you from the fear of words becoming concrete on the page. Talking through your story can give you a leg up in writing a story easier to listen to as an audible version. Talking through your story can help you hear the rhythm and pacing a scene needs and teach you to translate that to the keyboard.

The best way we can improve our posture, help our necks and backs, and carpal tunnel syndrome, energize our characters, find that elusive transition to get our plot moving again, trigger the muse for that amazing plot twist that we didn’t know was hiding in our hind-brain? Getting our hearts beating and sending blood around to all those vital parts of us that we need to keep writing. It’s a circle of body to mind to body that makes us better writers as well as better and healthier spouses, partners, parents, or employees.

Please comment with your suggestions or tell us what works for you! Join me on the first Friday of each month for exploration, discovery, and discussion of the writing life.

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Author

Elle Andrews Patt’s speculative and literary short fiction has appeared in markets such as The Rag, Saw Palm, and DarkFuse, among others. She has earned RPLA awards for her published short fiction, a published novella, Manteo, and an unpublished mystery novel. Her short story, “Prelude To A Murder Conviction” won an Honorable Mention from Writers Of The Future. She’d love to hear from you! Website

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9 Responses

  1. Kayte
    | Reply

    Refreshing and practical post – thanks!

    • Elle Andrews Patt
      | Reply

      Thanks for the feedback!!

  2. Karen Coody Cooper
    | Reply

    I needed those reminders and tips!

    • Elle Andrews Patt
      | Reply

      Glad I could help!!

  3. Gail Green
    | Reply

    Miss Elle,

    Thank you so much for this article! I find it personally doable( a real word?) The Weather is cooling down and walk time is beckoning from across.our.pastures. I have a great audio recorder app ” Listnote”, it will record and do the speech to text thing and I can email it to myself and put notes on folders. to work on later😁
    GG
    FWA
    ICL
    Scrb…..

  4. Gail Green
    | Reply

    Miss Elle,

    Thank you so much for this article! I find it personally doable( a real word?) The Weather is cooling down and walk time is beckoning from across.our.pastures. I have a great audio recorder app ” Listnote”, it will record and do the speech to text thing and I can email it to myself and put notes in folders. to work on later😁
    GG
    FWA
    ICL
    Scrb…..

    • Elle Andrews Patt
      | Reply

      Hey, Gail! Trying again to leave a response to you! Thanks for the tip on the Android app! iPhone users can give Notes a try using the microphone icon near the keyboard. It doesn’t work quite as well as “Listnote”, but it’s doable 🙂

  5. Ken Pelham
    | Reply

    Good advice for us all, Elle! It’s hard to fit everything in stay fit, but it’s important. Plus, when one feels well, the writing shows it. Or, at least there’s more of it.

    • Elle Andrews Patt
      | Reply

      Thanks, Ken! And I absolutely agree with you 🙂

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