The other weekend we had Ana and her husband Pookie over for a little Superbowl party. Like every other American watching the game we had our fair share of game day foods. We ate our weight in hoagies, pizza rolls, cheese balls, chicken wings and mini eclairs.
“Have you noticed that there are a lot of health-conscious writers out there?” Ana asked.
I just shoved four cheese balls in my mouth so all I could do was nod my agreement.
Sparky shook his sixth pizza roll at us. “You know what that’s called? That’s called procrastination.”
As I chugged on my coke to wash the processed cheese taste out of my mouth I thought about Sparky’s comment. I have noticed that there are a lot of comments on Twitter from writers about running or exercising or some sort of physical activity as part of their daily routines. And though I’m sure some days exercise is used as a procrastination tactic I get the feeling that these writers use exercise to overcome the black plague of writers – writer’s block.
Before I continue let me acknowledge that there is a debate out there that questions the actual existence of writer’s block. But for the sake of this post, lets just say that writer’s block does in fact exist and is currently lurking outside the writer’s mind waiting for the opportune time to sneak in, kidnap our imagination and its sister inspiration and run off into the dark, dark night.
Ok, now that that’s settled, back to my story.
I was always a very athletic person. I played soccer from the age of 3 until 20 when I tore my ACL during a championship summer league game. (That’s right, summer league. The men’s league drink beer after games, the women’s league plays for blood and firstborns.) Due to my injury I shied away from sports but after having a baby in early 2008 then again in late 2009 my body screamed for some sort of physical activity that would not result in me being pregnant. So I joined a gym.
At first I just went to get out of the house. I joined a Zumba class and danced my little heart out. As the months went on I tried other classes and ended up really enjoying Bodypump, a weight-lifting class. The only problem with the class is that I have to get there at least 30 minutes before hand to set up due to limited space. But what the hell was I going to do with an extra 30 minutes at the gym? I grudgingly set my sights on the treadmill.
Then the funniest thing happened when I started to run, er, jog…alright it happened as I walked. My mind shut off. Completely. This is momentous for someone like me. I am the quintessential worry-wort. I overanalyze conversations I had that day until I consider the color of the person’s shirt when figuring out what they meant when they said “I like your hair today.”
But when I’m running, it all goes away. The only thing I hear is the music pumping through my earbuds and the frantic beat of my heart. Afterwards I feel lighter, freer. I’ve noticed that the words come easier after I run/exercise and writer’s block doesn’t happen. I mean, sure sometimes I get stuck, but I’ve noticed if I step away from the computer and go for a little jog, when I return, new ideas or approaches are there waiting for me.
I know some people use running for procrastination. Others use it because they only focus on their work and not other things going on while running. Me, I use it because its the only time when I’m not thinking about anything. I feel total peace leaving me ready to face that blank page. (I still hate that little black blinking line, though.)
Do you use exercise as procrastination or to help you sort things out? Or are you like me and use it as an escape? Is exercise a cure for your writer’s block? If you don’t use exercise, what do you do to clear your head?