This is not a post to harangue you and make you feel guilty because you don’t exercise. But it IS about exercise and movement, and some of the unexpected benefits for indie fiction authors.
I’ve ducked writing a post of this sort since I set up the Productive Indie Fiction Writer site, mainly because I’m not a shining example of physical fitness. It’s always been something I promised myself I would get around to sorting out one day.
Here’s a fun set of facts.
I started writing full time at the end of 2015. Before then, my day job required vigorous walking, sometimes running, to catch buses, and powerwalking through the downtown core to my office and back in the afternoons.
The department I worked for was spread over three floors, and I always used the stairs to get to the floor I wanted.
I was also younger than I am now.
Fast forward through the six years since I started writing full time.
I sit at my desk for ten, sometimes 12, hours a day. Do I get up frequently and stretch? When I remember to. When I’m not immersed in my story and trying to get that snatch of a phrase down, or finish the scene with its really cool hook at the end.
Do I exercise daily? Do I walk around the neighbourhood? Compete in marathons?
Um…next question, please.
In the last six years, my focus upon exercise and daily movement has been pretty dismal. I am a really bad example of a balanced, healthy and sustainable lifestyle for indie authors.
However, recently, I’ve been trying to change that. I’ve attempted to start exercise programs on and off for all six years, but it’s never stuck because I was trying to do it on my own, without upsetting the routines of anyone else in the house.
This time, I’ve started a new exercise program with another member of the house, PLUS, we’re working out first thing in the morning. Yes, even before breakfast and writing (and that took a few hours of justifying and changing my mindset, because getting to writing in the morning is critical).
We also cleaned up our diet, but I’ve spoken about the impact of food on your writing before, so I won’t deal with that here, except to note that food and movement are pretty much joined at the hip. Your efforts to change one will be vastly more effective if you also fix the other.
So why do I feel like I’m in a position to write about the benefits of exercise, today?
Actually, I still don’t feel as though I am a good example.
We’re just into week 2 of the new exercise program, and I hurt. This morning, I’m having trouble with my left knee (I’ve never had issues with my knees before), and my energy is in the basement. I am tired and achy, and only getting through the workouts by gritting my teeth and forcing myself to it. If the other person wasn’t there next to me, there’s a good chance I’d head back to bed, because I am neither enjoying myself, nor am I reaping benefits.
That’s what I keep telling myself–that the benefits will start to show up soon. I just have to hang in there a little longer. As you age, adapting to new exercise routines takes longer.
But there is a long list of benefits that I’m waiting to have kick in, because they will help enormously with my writing.
That’s what prompted me to write this post today. I’ve been researching the specific benefits that writers reap from consistent movement and exercise, and thought I would list them here for you.
Have a think about this list. If you’re not active, don’t like working out or sweating, if the guilt is grinding away at you just from reading this post, then I can tell you something I know to be true because I’m currently living it. The older you are and the longer you have been inactive, the more depressingly unfit you become–but you won’t notice it.
You’ll always have enough energy to get to your desk and write. And as long as you’re writing consistently, you may feel that setting up an exercise program is a lesser priority.
But severe unfitness and its side effects creep up on you. This is the bit I’m living right now. And this is why I’m having such issues (and pain) even on the second week of the program.
Here’s a few questions for you:
- Do you ever get up from the desk and get dizzy or thick-headed and have to wait for it to pass?
- Do your knees creak, or pang when you get up off the chair?
- Does your back or hips ache when you sit for long periods?
- Do you put on weight just looking at the wrong foods? And is it impossible to shift, and getting harder with every passing year?
That’s just the really obvious stuff. But here’s where being unfit strikes your writing career directly in the heart–and it’s subtle!
- Do you sometimes sit down to write and just can’t seem to get your head together to do it?
- When you have long writing sessions, do you reach a point toward the end where you are utterly drained of energy and just don’t want to continue?
- Ever reached for the exact right word, the one you know and is on the tip of your tongue…and just couldn’t recall it?
- Do you have to consistently check back on your outline, to recall what happens next, before you write it?
- You might have to think about this…but are you making more and more stupid typos as you write? Even if you’re a 10-finger typist, are you hitting that back key more frequently than you used to?
- Has your hourly word count decreased?
- Have headaches increased?
- Compare last year’s total word count with the previous years. Has it dropped off? Worse, is there a declining trend across the years?
- If you’re working a full time job, do you find it next to impossible to summon the energy and concentration needed to write in the evenings?
That’s just some of the little niggles that gradually declining fitness can introduce to your writing business.
On the other hand, if you can get yourself up and moving consistently, and if you’re not clawing your way back up as deep a pothole as me, then even with a few days’ of exercise, and certainly over a period of time, you can reap the benefits:
- Both mood and memory are enhanced.
- Creativity increases.
- Your energy improves.
- So does your endurance.
- Sleep improves.
That’s just the big, general stuff that evey blog post out there will itemize.
Here’s the more subtle benefits.
- Even five minutes of walking will likely resolve that plot point you’re agonizing over.
- Five minutes of walking will also help you actually sit down and write in the first place.
- Your motivation to write every day improves, grows more consistent.
- You sail through long writing sessions.
- And when you look back at those long writing sessions, you realize that a) you naturally got up off the chair at regular intervals, and b) still kept all the storylines in your head, so that when you got back to the keyboard, you picked up where you left off without issue.
- Words and phrases come into your mind without reaching for them.
- You find yourself with the energy and capacity to think about the story and your characters when you’re not writing
- …which helps you keep the story in your head when you are writing.
- You’re making less typos, which picks up your writing speed.
- Your hourly word count is increasing.
- Writing in the evenings after a hard day at work is no longer a problem. You’re tired, but have enough energy to get your words down.
- You actually enjoy the process of writing once more, you become more enthusiastic about the story you’re writing and all the stories you want to write.
I think the last point is probably one of the best benefits of exercise. But here’s the ultimate pay off:
- You live longer and therefore get to write more stories…while also enjoying an independent and quality life.
Just something to think about.