The Body-Brain Connection: Does Your Sedentary Lifestyle Damage Your Writing Talent?

by | May 3, 2013 | The Writing Life | 8 comments

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Sedentary LifeThese days, many of us lead a sedentary lifestyle—especially writers who make their living seated for untold hours at computers. Aspiring, nonprofessional writers have it even worse—before spending long hours writing at home, they’ve already spent a full day at a desk job. All this sitting is bad for your body, your brain health, and—as science now suggests—your creativity.

The link between the body and the creative mind is becoming better understood. In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp explains: “The chemistry of the body is inseparable from the chemistry of the brain. Movement can stimulate anyone. I can’t say enough about the connection between body and mind; when you stimulate your body, your brain comes alive in ways you can’t simulate in a sedentary position. The brain is an organ, tied integrally to all the other systems in the body, and it’s affected by blood flow, neural transmission, all the processes you undergo when you put your body through its paces. You’re making it work differently, and new directions can result.”

So how can novelists, poets, and short story writers increase their activity level—thereby increasing creativity and the quality of their work—short of joining a gym and adopting a dreaded exercise regimen?

There are a myriad of virtually painless ways! Here are a few:

  • Do seated exercises. Okay, so you’re really averse to anything remotely resembling “real exercise.” How about a few simple body movements you can perform without leaving that beloved chair? Here are some ideas for seated exercises that can be done throughout the day to reduce fatigue and keep the creative juices flowing: 11 Exercises to Do While Sitting at Your Computer.

  • Stand at your computer. There are a growing number of people who enjoy the benefits of a stand-up desk (including our client Irene O’Garden…take a look at her office workspace!). While standing, you naturally tend to move a lot more, and it’s also good for posture, circulation, and reducing fatigue. You can easily test the concept by placing your laptop at eye level on a box on your desk. Some awfully creative people—Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, and Ernest Hemingway—wrote while standing.

  • Get up and stretch every hour. Make it a point to get up and stretch every hour or so. As long as you’re up, walk down the hall and then walk up and down that staircase you’d rather avoid. Not only do these little trips invigorate and refresh…they burn calories to boot!

  • Dance to the music. You don’t have to be Twyla Tharp to reap the benefits of dancing. When you’re working at home, put on some music every so often and just move to it. Rock to Aerosmith. Sway to Mozart. March in place to Wagner. Do the locomotion with Little Eva. Moving to music not only spurs the creative juices, it makes you happy!

  • Take a hike! According to a study referenced in Scientific American, participants who spent four days hiking without electronic devices scored nearly fifty percent higher on creativity tests than a control group. Fifty percent is a HUGE difference. It may not be possible to go hiking in the woods for four days, but it is possible to incorporate the concept into your daily life. Take a few moments each day to stroll around your yard or the grounds of your apartment complex WITHOUT your cell or smartphone. The walking will fulfill the need for more movement, while the daily observing of the world around you will serve to inspire your writing. **NOTE: If you regularly work out with apps on your smartphone, we recommend that you silence your ringtone/notifications so you are free of distractions and can let the creativity flow more freely through your mind.

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A writer needs every advantage. Exercise—any movement, in fact—is good for your health; it is good for your happiness; it is good for your creativity; it is good for your writing. So get out and about, get up and go, get down and boogie. Your body, your mind, and your readers will thank you.

Photo by: CollegeDegrees360.

Questions for WritersQuestion: How do you stay active during the workday?

8 Comments

  1. Lisa

    I actually just starting standing while I’m writing. At first I thought it might interrupt my process, but now I find it can help my concentration, especially if I’m feeling distracted. I propped a box on a stool, then put my laptop on that. I sit one hour, stand thn next, etc.

    My husband started standing up more at work too–every time he does one particular task, he stands for it rather than sits. We’re both noticing benefits of increased alertness, especially during those fuzzy after-lunch hours.

    Just figured I’d chime in!

    Reply
  2. Jori

    I try to space out my housework. I am always jumping up to do laundry, cleaning, etc.

    Reply
  3. Linda

    Yay! Great post – couldn’t agree more! Kayaking (when the weather allows it) and running, along with every-day exercise like garden work and walks are my “remedies” for a happy and creative life. If I sit still too long, I tend to get restless and unfocused, which of course has a negative effect on my writing and creativity. It’s all about balance, really: giving both body and mind what they need.

    Reply
  4. Robin Levin

    I make it a practice to walk my dog for 15 minutes each morning and than exercise on my treadclimber for half an hour. While I exercise I listen to a novel on my Kindle using the text to speech function. It really helps to make the time pass pleasantly and I gotten through a lot of good novels this way, sort of killing two birds with one stone. At 63 I remain in good health and have not developed obesity or diabetes, both of which run in my family.

    Reply
  5. Sarah Butland

    Thanks for these reminders. I do sit all night at the computer and it’s driving me insane but quieting my characters. Then I’m a tiny bit active with my son all day but find it’s not enough, especially when dreading the 8 hours of sitting at night.

    Now if only we could figure out some activities to do while we sleep. 🙂

    Thanks for writing and reading,

    Sarah Butland
    author of Arm Farm, Sending You Sammy and Brain Tales – Volume One

    Reply
  6. norma

    I was in that very position. I would sit for long periods. I began to notice that my ideas were more linear and not so out of the box as before. I was a little stressed. A friend suggested that we go on a hike.

    It was so great to be outside watching the sunset. An Arizona sun set is breathtaking. I come home feeling rejuvenated and wrote up a great piece of music. I found this article and said wow! that’s cool. You reinforced my idea to do more hiking. Great Write up!

    Reply
  7. Total Health Care

    Yes, it’s true. Sitting with writing all day at home can brutally damage us physically as well as mentally. It’s better to take a break from writing for a while and do some seated exercises.

    Reply

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