February 28, 2011

Running Helps Me Write

I run for fun. (Queue the Back to the Future quotes if you like.) Some people think it's crazy, and six years ago I would have agreed with them. But once I started running regularly, I started seeing the benefits:
clear mind, energy, alertness, general strength and stamina (kinda sounds like Specials by Scott Westerfeld)
and running helps to clear out all the funk and cobwebs that gather when I'm trying to write.

During my run, my mind is especially clear. I can focus on anything. Today I wanted to think about the story I'm working on. I played through the last chapter as my feet kept a steady rhythm below. And the characters came alive. It was magic, I tell you. Pure magic.

And as I was crafting characters and situations in my head, I passed by a house with the door wide open. This house had its front door open the last time I ran past it. (It wasn't an accident because I saw someone walking in the driveway.) As I was thinking about why someone would leave their door open, a smell caught me off guard. I think it was coming from inside the house. I was breathing hard, so I inhaled a lot of the scent and my first thought was: clean. Like the dentist's. It was the perfect scent to put into my scene and I was trying to come up with the right words to describe it and it hit me: licorice. Licorice and mint. And maybe fluoride or something.

So that's why I run, folks. Clear head during the run lets me brainstorm, clear head after the run lets me focus when it's time to actually write, and scenery feeds me material. Like I said: Magic.


Prue said...

I do the same but brisk walking as my joints don't allow me to run. Exercise keeps me alert and clear-headed and I work better when I get home and sit down at the computer.
I start my day with chores, racing round the house, generally bustling for an hour. Then I sit and write. Without that initial burst of activity I sit at the computer, sleepy-headed and don't function nearly so well.

Exercise is great :)

Alex said...

I watched a programme awhile ago about the intellectual benefits of exercise. I'm only saying this as other grounding for an already sound argument. Also, I'm a sucker for information and I try to learn as much as I can about everything I can. From reading this blog and others, I've learned that curiosity is definitely beneficial since you need to know characters like best friends

It apparently releases endorphins (the happy hormone) in your body when doing exercise so this leads to the clear head and loss of stress people feel. Some people only like sports because they get this rush when they stop exercising. This is exactly the same thing, just a delayed response.

Also, running stimulates neuron connection activity, so you can link everything and improve skills and understanding. For plot, this means that you can link parts of the story you had previously deemed unconnected and mostly irrelevant to one another.

Another excellent post. I run as much as my patience allows me: I have to run very early when I do, 6am to 7am.

Unknown said...

Prue: I'm glad I'm not the only one who knows exercise is good for writing. Sometimes I think I'm a little nuts.

Unknown said...

Wow. Thanks for the added insight. (I love shows like that. I need to search hulu for more.)

I didn't know about the connecting neural paths. That's very interesting.

I usually run in the mornings, too. If I wait, it's a hassle to time my meals and coordinate everything. I also find that I drag my feet a lot more. But once I start moving, it's not so bad (thanks to those lovely endorphins).

Prue said...

Of course, the other benefit of getting outside, even on grey winter days that we get so many of in the UK, is that the daylight stimulates the pineal gland in the brain. Some people get very sleepy in winter, some get really depressed - called SAD (seasonal affect disorder). I'm at the sleepy end of the scale. So I go out, rain or shine, around midday for a brisk walk. And I totally agree about the endorphins. I love endorphins. Mmmmmmmmmm :)

Alex said...

Yay for endorphins then!

I didn't know about SAD. Interestingly enough, I prefer winter and darkness (I think the melodramatist in me thinks its mysterious and all that jazz!) as I do rain.

It does make you wake up though, regardless of the hour. As Emily says, it makes it an active start to the day- a kickstart. I like starting the day with a run, if able.

And Emily, I totally agree. I drag my feet to the top of my street but then I see a car coming and, since I think I must be an amusing sight, I start running properly to avoid my little delusions! Thanks to that driver, I always get a good hour long run!

Unknown said...

An hour?! Wow.

The SAD will kick in, even if you're running when it's overcast.

It really messes with you when you live closer to the poles. In the summer, you need less sleep, you're in a better mood, you have more energy. But in the winter, sometimes you're lucky to get two hours of daylight. Not fun. You feel sluggish for two months. Yuck.

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