Artistic types have a history of mental illness and suicide. Some believe this is to do with the constant self-doubt and potential for failure, some believe it is implicit to the way the creative psyche works, while others have suggested that it is linked to societies habit of putting the creative on a pedestal and the myth that to suffer for ones art is both noble and necessary. Elizabeth Gilbert has explored these myths in detail in her book Big Magic and she does amazing work in explaining that the creative process should be enjoyed – stating that if you don’t love to write, then simply don’t.
And writing could be seen to come with it’s own physical risks, too. No, I’m not talking accidentally stabbing yourself in the back of the end with a pencil. A recent study has found that a third of the UK aren’t moving enough and modern often sedentary jobs are to blame. Writing might not be your full time job and coming home from a day of sitting to an evening of sitting writing could mean that we are at even greater risk.
But we can’t not write (or paint or draw or whatever creative interest our heart desires).
So what can we do?
Here are my four suggestions on how movement can improve creative practice and how we can sneak more movement into a creative day.
1) Getting away from your desk can help with writers block
In an interview with the Guardian Hilary Mantel advised anyone with writers block to get away from their desks for a while. I’ve often found that if I’m blocked, a long walk can usually help me puzzle out a plot hole or discover a new character or come up with a fresh new idea.
I do wonder if the endorphins which our bodies release when exercising help our minds to work more quickly and aid the creative process.
2) Distance can bring a new perspective
Stephen King suggested putting completed manuscripts in a drawer to return to with fresh eyes at a later date for editing. This distance can be helpful not just at the editing and redrafting stage, but throughout the writing process. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in a writing flow then I don’t take many breaks. I just keep writing and hope it’s good and worry about the back ache later!
However, taking a few short breaks to go for a walk or if you’re a yogi, practicing a few sun salutations, could help bring a new perspective to your writing.
3) Exercise allows us to sit for longer
In yoga, the asanas or postures are there to aid sitting for long periods in meditation. For us writers, this idea is invaluable. If we make sure to fit movement into our day, we will be less likely to be bothered by aching backs or sore shoulders – or at least will get longer out of our writing session before our bodies do start to complain.
For a yoga practice to help with the neck ache from using technology, use this video on Yoga For Text Neck from Yoga With Adrien.
4) A change of scene can improve our descriptive writing
Sometimes it can be helpful to take a break from a longer writing project and try something different. Whether that’s journaling, writing in a different genre or blogging it can all help us to get some distance and try out different styles.
Going for a meditative walk can become a writing exercise. For example, for each person you pass, imagine a story – where are they going, what do they want and will they get it? Alternatively, consider how setting your story in the location you are walking in would change its telling – would it result in any plot changes?