The Importance of Taking Time NOT To Write by Eden Mabee

We writers almost never want to think about… those times we can’t write. As far as I know, there is really only one real cure for Writer’s Block. Writing…

Yes, it’s good to have a fertile list of inspirations to draw from; reading is an excellent source of ideas (as well as a great way to learn how other people have put these elusive things we call words into forms and patterns that create pictures in our mind’s eyes). May writers swear by brainstorming; it’s great to get involved in writing challenges and try prompts that other people have tried and found helpful. Pictures and movies, hanging out with friends… all of these help build a fertile mental soil for the growth of stories.

There’s one more thing, and this is vital.

Any farmer or gardener can tell you… It’s all well and good to have excellent fertilizers. And if you plant the right seeds there’s always going to be a harvest of some kind. But you need to maintain that soil: You need to water it; you need to plow it, hoe out weeds, and be able to gather in that raw produce to share at the market. This takes effort. This takes work, and you need to be fit to do it.

You need to hone your Writer’s Body.

You need to get away from the keyboard and the pens and the books. You need to give those young seedlings of ideas some oxygen and some refreshing showers…

Yeah, I’m talking about exercise.

You see, you as the Writer are the most important part of your writing career. YOU. You need to take care of yourself; you need to exercise and eat healthy food, not just food for the brain and soul, but food for the machine that holds the pen, the great device that pushes those buttons for you and dictates into the the microphone.

This is my second run as a sponsor for the ROW80, but even when I wasn’t sponsoring, I visited other ROWers. One thing I saw far too often are posts by people who are blocked and tired or worn out (and thus doubting themselves). I’ve made more than my fair share of these posts. It’s disheartening. But I think I’ve found the answer… It’s getting away from writing. Just a bit, just a few minutes.

Taking a break and standing up or stretching gets things circulating again. There’s something that happens in our bodies when we sit for more than 20 minutes. Triglycerides build up, our oxygen demands go down… we lower our metabolism; we start conserving instead of expending. (Read that part about how we get sleepy? Being sleepy is no way to work well. So stand up and grab yourself a cuppa–water will work as well as coffee; it’s the standing that matters.)

Considering that writing is an active act, an act of giving our thoughts and words to the world, <emwhy are we doing it in a state of conserving resources? Get up, stand at your desk for a few minutes, do a few toe touches, a stretch or two… renew the blood flow; start breathing deeply again.

And then write. You’ll be glad you did.

(For those ROWers on Facebook, you might want to join in our ROW80 Fitness group where we inspire each other in maintaining our Writer’s Bodies. Or if you’d rather avoid Facebook–not necessarily a bad idea given how fast time seems to fly there–maybe you could add a fitness goal to your ROW80 goals. Make that boy work for you. Believe it or not, it will give you more writing time, not less.)

~*~

Eden Mabee

11 comments

  1. I’ve gone to a stand-up work station at home because my day job keeps me on my butt a good 9 hours a day. Or should I say, a bad 9 hours a day? Grrr. I try to fit in exercise as well, and am going to construct a balance board for my standing work station. I can really tell those days I’ve done too much sitting after work. Brain turns to a sluggy mush.

    1. It’s hard when our employment demands interfere with a healthy lifestyle. It’s great that you found a way to get standing and moving at home, Kathi. Maybe you can find a way to stand a little more at work? Is there reading you need to do? Maybe stand a moment for that? Maybe print up the info from that NPR article on why sitting is so bad and get an office “project” going?

      I hope you find something that works. Your body is important to keeping you here and you writing. Best of luck!

      1. My employer is very health conscious, so I’m hoping I can talk them into a standing work station. Unfortunately, that would mean taller cube walls as well. Right now the cubes ar divided by short walls to allow “more open communication”. I try to get up and move around, but most times I’m quite busy and engrossed in the task at hand and forget to move. Except for fingers and eyes.

        1. Ah! That’s good that your employer might work with you on something like this. And thought it’s hard on the body to be sitting for so long, it’s not a terrible thing that you get that engrossed in your work.

          I really hope you come up with an option that will work for you.

  2. What a fabulous point to make! I’ve recently discovered that my best writing breaks involve physical movement. It can be exercise or just moving laundry around, but something that gets my body moving also seems to get my brain moving too. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Julie — It’s great you already figured this out on your own. I think too often we get caught up in the “Rule” of Butt in chair, Fingers on keyboard that we forget what we were like when all these original dreams of being a writer came to us. We weren’t sitting all the time; we might have been in school, but we got up and moved around…we had reasonably active lifestyles. Writing itself may be a sedentary job, but so much of it can be done while moving… brainstorming, proof-reading, even come copy-edits.

    Keep that body and that mind in harmony!

    Alberta — Good to hear you took that day off and it helped you feel better. There’s a reason many faiths encourage the idea of a Sabbath day. It’s “good for what ails” us. 😀

  4. I did a post one time about how we can develop blood clots if we don’t get up and move around. Ironically, my husband was hospitalized for this very thing. He had broken his ankle, then was very sedentary while healing. My best friend died of a blood clot. There are so many health issues that can come up if we don’t get some exercise between all the sitting at the keyboard. I also read an article the other day that said that people who sit several hours a day have a shorter lifespan, even if they exercise regularly at other times. It’s SO important to get up and do something physical. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! I hope everyone takes this seriously.

    1. You are very welcome, Lauralynn. And thank you for speaking out from personal experiences. I admit–I was mostly thinking of the creative slump that takes over us when we’re not moving, but I also remember reading about the lowered lifespan of sedentary people.

      It’s important. We need to take care of ourselves. And each other…

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