Writer Exercise

This week, I did something I never thought I’d do…

I’ve always imagined myself a geeky-nerd type, content behind my PC or with my nose in a book (or glued to my Kindle screen) but the truth is that I’ve always been fairly “sporty.” As a kid, this included dancing in various forms, then horse riding, tennis, hockey, netball (strange non-dribbling variation of basketball), Latin American and ballroom dancing, aerobics, tai chi, ice-skating, rollerblading… In short, I’ve always done some form of exercise and yet, since I started taking writing seriously, I’ve become more of a recluse, resigned to a life at my PC, stabbing away at the keyboard. This week, a good friend of mine suggested swimming. Now given that the current outdoor temperature is hovering around -15 C and that there’s over a metre of snow coating the world in icy meringue, the mere suggestion of a sport that involves near nudity and plunging one’s self in water is rather absurd.

So I said, “sure, why not?” and promptly bought a sporty one piece swim suit so I’d feel less out of place at a proper training pool.

I wasn’t convinced I’d survive the first session, drowning seemed quite probable, but I did more than survive, I actually enjoyed the 45 minutes swimming back and forth in the warm waters of the indoor pool, watching the snow fall outside the window. Swimming is great exercise too, easy on the joints but tough on muscles so it’s really the best sort of exercise one can do, especially for those of us beleaguered by joint issues like carpal tunnel syndrome (from too much time spent typing on the keyboard). And for writers who tend to lead a sedentary lifestyle, any exercise away from the keyboard is terrific.

When I Googled ‘writers exercise’ I got over a million hits about writing exercises, as in how to improve various facets of writing through assorted exercises – clearly, someone was missing the point. While writing exercises are essential to developing one’s craft, exercise, as in get-your-heart-pumping-start-sweating kind of exercise, is even more essential for writers who sit slouched at the computer all day for the following reasons:

  1. BIC (bum in chair) is great for writing and not so great for your health – everyone needs exercise, even pyjama-wearing, keyboard-hugging writers need to get up and move
  2. Being healthy is more important to the writing process than you may think – an unhealthy body can and does effect the mind, and an unhealthy mind isn’t so good for writing
  3. Being reclusive doesn’t help the writing process – although you may want to cuddle your keyboard waiting for inspiration to strike, it’s not going to. Go out and live a little…exercise, meet people, experience new and different things…you may just find a story somewhere there
  4. Writer’s back, neck and shoulder issues can be more effectively fixed by a good workout than acupuncture, chiropractors or any other arcane methods you might be tempted to employ to ease the stiff muscles from hours of typing
  5. Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone builds character and can help you develop better characters in your story, so if you’ve never gone ice-skating before then that’s precisely what you should do even if it means sacrificing your daily word count for joy of experiencing something new

I’m not saying become an athlete, but join the gym or find a friend to go jogging with and get away from the keyboard for just a few minutes everyday. Just this week with my two 45minute sessions spent at the local swimming hall, and I’m already thinking up a ton of new characters and situations (not related to swimming, mind you), thanks to those cognitive cob-web clearing cardiovascular workouts.


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