Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Jumpstart Your Creativity

Guest Blogger - Becky Clark

I used to hate any form of exercise, even leisurely walking, unless that leisurely walk took me to the ice cream store or Starbucks. Or both. That was before I started writing. That was before my sweet, angelic baby girl turned into Alien Toddler.

I started writing when my daughter was one year old. I started walking because if I put her in the stroller and gave her a lollipop (I know — bad, bad mommy), she wouldn’t scream or otherwise make my nerves go taut as a violin string for at least 20 minutes. I knew every morning I would have peace and quiet, time to gather my frazzled thoughts. Soon, those walks became addictive. Sometimes, I went for two walks a day. Sometimes even three, depending on whether or not Alien Toddler felt like napping.

I soon learned another benefit of daily walking. It was a great way to work out the kinks in my WIP. Almost like magic, for the scene I was having so much trouble with, the plot point that had me staring at the blinking cursor until I could see it in my sleep, the solution would pop into my head. Oftentimes, my mind would be overflowing with so many great ideas, I’d extend the walk (with more lollipops) until I couldn’t wait to get home and onto the computer (after Alien Toddler was napping, of course).

Creativity guru Julia Cameron urges all of us artsy fartsy types to take regular walks at least once a week to restore our spirit and nourish our creativity. In her book, Walking in this World, she says, “The truth is that walking holds our solutions.” Before the walk, we’re stuck. After the walk, we’re miraculously unstuck.

Walking clears your head and focuses your thinking, it pulls your awareness away from relentless mind chatter to the gentle rhythm of the walk. The repetitiveness of each step after step gradually brings you into an almost meditative, deeper state. And this deeper state is where your creative mind is free to let go, to explore the possibilities and all the “what if’s.” This is when the magic happens.

It’s no secret that exercise and creativity go hand in hand. Stephen King is known to be an avid walker. Henry David Thoreau wrote a book on it. And St. Augustine said, “Solvitur ambulando”—“it is solved by walking.” Great minds, great walkers.

I’m not telling you to go out there and walk as fast as you can until you’re all hot and sweaty and cursing my name. I’m talking slow and leisurely, people. Easy does it. Nourish that inner muse, don’t give it a heart attack.

Next time you’re stuck with your writing, instead of beating the tar out of your computer or scarfing a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, trying going for a walk instead. Your muse — not to mention your waistline — will thank you.

Becky Clark walks almost daily but swears her internal critic is following her. FYI—She survived the Alien Toddler years; said A.T. is now an Alien Teenager. When Becky’s not walking, she writes contemporary romance. Her most recent manuscript is a 2008 Golden Heart finalist.

18 comments:

  1. Hi, Becky - I enjoyed your post! I also walk and listen to music as an antidote to writer's block. (By all rights, my butt should be much smaller than it is.) I didn't know those other authors walked too. I guess we're in pretty good company. :)

    Anne

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  2. Hi Anne,
    With all my walks and workouts, my butt should be much smaller than it is, too. Perhaps it's all the chocolate I eat? Chocolate also enhances creativity. I'm sure I read that somewhere...

    Becky

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  3. Nice job on your post, Becky.

    I, too, find walking to be a great creativity boost. My walks take me back in time. Since I've been working on historicals, that's a good thing.

    My house is about a mile from downtown Placerville, California, one of the first major towns formed during the Gold Rush. As I walk past stately Victorian houses and arrive downtown, where buildings over one hundred fifty years old line historic Main Street, I can see and hear my characters, who traveled the same paths.

    Yup. Walking can work wonders for writers. Not only do I get some exercise (DH says the intense workout my fingers get as they fly over the keyboard each day doesn't qualify,) but I return home with my creativity flowing.

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  4. mayberry tuesdayJuly 2, 2008 at 12:16 PM

    I've tried this sort of thing on my treadmill on rainy days and it works too. As long as I leave the tv off, lol.

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  5. I haven't tried thinking about writing while I walk. I'm usually listening to music and planning my day. I'll have to give this a shot.

    :)

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  6. Didn't know that about King. Great post. Thanks.

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  7. I actually find that driving is a great muse. My mind seriously wanders while I'm driving and I have written many poems or fleshed out characters and storyline while driving to and from work.

    If only that cop would have believed me...

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  8. Hi Becky,

    I think you're the motivation I needed to start walking this summer. In the winter, I do try to walk on the treadmill in the gym (not big on snow & ice).

    One question, do you walk with tunes playing or just your thoughts?

    Thanks for the ideas.

    Sue

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  9. Great post, Becky. I'm also an avid walker. When I walk with my husband he is a captive audience to all my plot problems and writing ups and downs--poor guy!

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  10. I don't know what Becky thinks (I'm sure she'll be back in here soon to tell us) but the right music on my iPod really helps me clarify my thoughts and shut out other distractions.

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  11. Hi everyone,
    Sorry I haven't responded to everyone. I haven't been able to get online since yesterday morning--my computer was acting up. And just now, I typed up a long response to everyone and when I tried to post it, it erased it all. So I'll try again...

    Keli--I'm jealous of your walking route. I love old houses. It's fun to imagine what type of people lived there over the years. I would imagine your walks are extra inspiring, being that you write historicals.

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  12. Keli--
    I think all our typing SHOULD count as exercise.

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  13. Mayberry tuesday--I will walk on the treadmill if I can't get outside, but it's generally not as effective for me. Probably because I use the treadmills at the gym I work at, so everyone knows me and I get lots of interruptions. I could be right in the middle of an "a ha!" moment, when someone approaches me. So...

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  14. C.J.--I actually don't like listening to music while I walk, unless it's instrumental. It's distracting otherwise. If I'm RUNNING, however, I need music to distract me from the total pain and agony.

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  15. Bubblevicious--(Love your name, by the way)
    Driving works great for me, too. In fact, my DH hates driving long distances with me because I don't want to listen to music or talk. If he tries to talk to me, I'm very distracted and give very short answers. Drives him crazy. :)

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  16. Susan Anne--
    Glad I motivated you to start walking. Sometimes, it's not enough motivation for me if I think of my walks as exercise. But if I think of them as ME time, where I'll have no interruptions to go over my plotting issues (or whatever I'm working on), it's much easier to lace up my shoes and get out the door.

    Like I said in an earlier post, I don't like to listen to music while I walk. I will, however, wear my headphones with iPod attached, because my neighbors are less likely to wave me over and talk if it looks like I'm listening to music. Little do they know that my iPod is not turned on.

    But everyone's different. You might get your best inspiration with music playing. :)

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  17. Joleen--That's awesome that your hubby will be a sounding board for your WIP. I think mine would rather have a root canal. Seriously. He doesn't always understand that I do the majority of my writing AWAY from the keyboard. If I can get it right in my head first, it flows much easier on the keyboard.

    I spend a lot of time staring into space, my eyes glazed over. At least I'm not drooling...I don't think...

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  18. anonymous--Thanks for stopping by! I like the thought of famous writers like King taking longs walks to work out his plot problems.

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