I often get questions from readers about writing. How do you build a writing life? I think it begins with two things:
- Schedule time to write. Do it as a daily practice.
- Schedule time to move. Do it as a daily practice.
The common myth is that creativity and “schedule” are incompatible. But most writers will tell you that structure is what makes things happen.
Too often, would-be writers wait until they feel “inspired” to write, which means they don’t write. Or, they “take a break” from writing by scrolling social media, texting other writers, or buying books online and calling it research. (I know because I do these things.) These diversions are fine, but they don’t really provide the mental and physical break we need to actually boost our creativity. I’m a writer and a runner, and I don’t think I could be one without the other. These two disciplines complement, balance and fuel one other.
Writing engages our brain (and often our soul) in deep ways. It requires thoughtful reflection, and the discipline of showing up. The first step to becoming a writer is to write. Get your butt in the chair, show up at the page, set a goal for writing a set number of words per day.
Runners, similarly, begin by showing up: lacing up the shoes and putting one foot in front of the other. Running (or walking, or any other physical activity) is a discipline—but also a gift to yourself and your physical and emotional well being. It may seem purely physical, but pushing through mentally and emotionally is part of the game. As one of my favorite running memes says, “Running is 99 percent mental and the other half is physical.”
My running strengthens my body and mind. I think more clearly when I’ve taken some time to move. I’m less anxious, calmer, clearer. Although exercise isn’t rest, it tamps down my anxiety, lets my mind take a break. I’m a better writer when I run. Writing requires me to be in my head, and physically still. Running requires me to be in my body, and physically moving.
There’s a curious connection between activity and creativity. I learn about each by engaging in the other. You become a writer by writing, but also by taking time to do something other than write.
So perhaps the path to greater creativity begins with movement—physical activity. One begins by simply beginning—whether walking, jogging, running, or some combination thereof. Improvement comes from making a commitment to slowly building a running practice. Writing is the same. Make a commitment to slowly build a practice of writing. Strength builds slowly, but when it does, you sort of look at yourself in amazement.
Activity alone will not make you into a writer, of course. That physical activity must be one part of the writing life. But the other part, of course, is making time to actually write.
Running (or other activity) provides a framework for my days that enhances my writing. When I start my day with a run, or a walk, there’s a feeling of accomplishment. To run six miles before most people even get out of bed—that fires me up. And that accomplishment motivates me to do more—to not just run, but to write 1000 words, to tackle an editing project, to just get a rough draft on paper.
What do you think? How does activity impact your creativity?