Drown Writer’s Block In Hot Sweat!

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Fitness & Adventure, Writing & SelfPublishing | 0 comments

eurekaIt’s like magic. Heart-pumping, glistening-skinned sorcery. There I am, rockin some sweet, sweet cardio on the treadmill/stairmaster/spin cycle, innocently reading a fine novel on my trusty Kindle, when . . . THROOOOSH! A juicy new story idea jet-streams into my conscience as if fired from the fingers of heavenly Word Wizards. Or stubborn issues with my current work in progress mold into awesomeness and fall into place like Tetris blocks. My eyes drift away from my Kindle display into the soup of training capris and tank tops and tattoos and clanging weights. But I don’t see any of that. My focus is inward, marveling at the parade of settings and characters and plotlines that lay themselves out—effortlessly—inside my mind. I don’t feel like I’m coming up with the ideas. I am a tool—simply the vehicle that receives them. And it is my privilege—my duty—to write them down immediately or risk losing them forever. So I close the Kindle and I spend the next thirty minutes finger-whipping notes into my Smartphone’s notepad app.

The phenomenon is real. It happens nearly every time I engage in long, sustained, exercise. It doesn’t have to be in the gym, either. Sometimes it happens while I’m running on the track. Sometimes it happens while I’m cycling on my favorite bike path. Hell, I’ve conjured up so many stories during exercise that the resulting backlog actually frustrates me. I’ll never be able to write them all—not anytime soon, at least. And even though I’m used to this spontaneous divine influx now, it still astounds me when I reflect on it.

What is responsible for this? Why do I have SO. MUCH. WIN. when I’m working out, and a healthy dose of writer’s block when I’m not?

I decided to investiGoogle. And guess what? My findings support my experiences.

As it turns out, there is a blooming cache of scientific evidence that we (human desk monkeys) think, learn, and create better when we’re bustin some hump. There are some obvious reasons for this.

For one, blood pressure and blood flow increase throughout the entire body as we exercise. That includes your squiggly pink skull-meat (or brain, if you’re not into making things sound nasty). With greater blood flow comes more energy and oxygen. More energy and oxygen translates to greater performance. And last I checked, greater performance is a highly desirable thing.

Let’s go a step deeper. There’s this dealy in your brain called a hippocampus. No, it’s not where hippos go for college degrees. In nerdlinger, science-y talk, the hippocampus is a component of the limbic system located in the medial temporal lobe of mammalian brains. It plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation. In uncouth real-world talk, the hippocampus is a sort of wormy little flesh pod that looks like a wayward seahorse has burrowed into your head and said “Screw it, I ain’t leavin.” The important thing here is that this little seahorse is critical for learning and memory. When we work up a sexy sheen of sweat, the neurons in the hippocampus start popping off like firecrackers, and our cognitive functions take off on a flying carpet ride of creativity. Not only that, but according to Scientific American:

“Other recent work indicates that aerobic exercise can actually reverse hippocampal shrinkage, which occurs naturally with age, and consequently boost memory in older adults. Yet another study found that students who exercise perform better on tests than their less athletic peers.”

There’s no mystery then that my sustained cardiovascular workouts have led me to magical, writer’s-block-busting plot-storming sessions. The science supports the magic. And ya know, working out is just plain good for you. Sitting isn’t. There’s nothing groundbreaking or magical about that. We need exercise in our lives—it’s how we were built.

So whether you’re a writer or just a poor sap stuck in some kind of mental rut, get your butt on a bike seat. Or a stairmaster. Or a treadmill. Or a track. Eliminate all distractions. Just work, breathe, and sweat, and let your blood-engorged seahorse-infested brain do the rest. And don’t forget to have that notepad app handy!

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