Writers are notorious desk dwellers. We often sit for hours at a time, toiling away on some laborious project. Perhaps we crane our necks, slouch, place tension on our wrists. When I start to feel my back and shoulders ache in unnatural ways I find myself cursing books and computers, so while I love to read and write, I strongly advocate a physically active lifestyle. As it turns out, so do some of our most beloved writers.
I recently read Joyce Carol Oates “Faith of a Writer” and she spoke of her need to jog. In fact, jogging helped to inspire her writing. Changing up her environment offered both physical and creative benefits. She was famously quoted on the subject of running:
“Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think of what it might be. In running the mind flees with the body, the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.”
Meanwhile, Louisa May Alcott recorded in her journal that:
“I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some former state because it was such a joy to run.”
It seems that both historically and in the present day, many writers find that physical exercise offers a kind of escape. In a 2004 interview Haruki Murakami described a daily routine consisting of a ten kilometer run or a fifteen hundred meter swim. Some days he did both. Murakami claimed that:
“Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”
Of course there are the Mark Twain’s of the world. The famous writer declared unabashedly:
“I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never intend to take any.”
So if you’re not a runner or a fan of sports and if you support Twain’s disdain for exercise, I suggest a walk. A walk, to me, is as mentally freeing as it is physically beneficial. Changes in scenery break my obsessions and force me to refocus. As shown, many writers have been known to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. Take Kurt Vonnegut, who took breaks between writing to do push-ups and sit-ups. Vonnegut is a reminder that physical exercise can be as easy as standing up, backing away from the computer and taking a walk down the block, sprinting a lap at the park or stretching the muscles in your neck.
So writers and readers alike, curl up in your favourite chair or hunker down at your desk but if the will to move comes knocking, don’t fear! You’re not alone. Embrace your body and in turn, your creative soul may also be nourished.