Wednesday, 6 May 2015
How I write novels #4: Exercise
So there’s anecdotal evidence that regular physical exercise can improve the brain’s flexibility in coming up with creative solutions, sometimes called ‘convergent thinking’. This has worked for me again and again as a writer. I’ll be typing away and suddenly something will interrupt my flow. It might be one of my characters not knowing what to say or do next, or an outright breakdown in plot logic. Whatever it is, I’ve had to pause, my eyes wandering to the left or right of the computer screen and staring at a wall or out of a window (Stephen King says never face a window when you’re writing but whatevs). I can’t think past or around the problem so I do some exercise.
I used to go for a run, I’d make sure it was linear because running in circles around parks tends to do my head in. Linear feels narrative to me. So I used to go for a run and at some point during that half hour I’d have a solution. Every time. And it was the way the solution arrived that I loved: like a cross-wind carrying a smell that reminds you of something, except this isn’t memory, it’s something new, it’s inspiration. I can’t explain it beyond that, I’ve looked it up on the Internet and like I said the evidence for this phenomenon is anecdotal. But it works everytime (Britney spelling). I’d go for a run, and come back with a solution.
Nowadays it’s a core part of my writing day. I wake up, I eat something, I write, I exercise, I write, I live my life. Exercise helps with my flow. Only now it takes the form of skipping. A friend of mine was into boxing and he told me to start skipping, so that's what I did!