We all know that exercise is good not just for the body, but the brain. Thee’s also growing evidence that it helps fuel creativity as well, which is good news for us as writers. After all, anything that enriches and supports our flights of imagination is worth exploring and embracing. In “The Neuroscience of Imagination,” a fascinating online story in Psychology Today, author and athlete Christopher Bergland, explores the connection between creativity and physical movement.
At one point, he notes, “In an essay from 1911 called On Vital Reserves: The Energies of Men and the Gospel of Relaxation William James said, ‘when you are making your general [creative] resolutions and deciding on your plans of campaign, keep them out of the details. When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the outcome. Unclamp, in a word, your intellectual and practical machinery, and let it run free; and the service it will do you will be twice as good.'”
One of the best way to “unclamp” your mind and “let it run free” is through physical activity. In his book, Origins of Imagination: Exploring the Neuroscience of Creativity,” Bergland spends an entire chapter on writers who have used physical movement, from walking and cycling to running, to wipe away mental cobwebs and jumpstart their creative juices: A few examples:
Louisa May Alcott, an avid runner:
“Active exercise was my delight from the time when a child of six I drove my hoop around the Common without stopping, to the days when I did my twenty miles in five hours and went to a party in the evening. I always thought I must have been a deer or a horse in some former state, because it was such a joy to run.”
Henry Miller, an avid endurance cyclist:
“Each man has his own way. After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever. . .You’re working, your mind is working on this problem in the back of your head. So, when you get back to the machine it’s a mere matter of transfer.”
Joyce Carol Oates, another devoted runner:
“Running seems to allow me, ideally, an expanded consciousness in which I can envision what I’m writing as a film or a dream. I rarely invent at the typewriter but recall what I’ve experienced…. Running is a meditation; more practicably it allows me to scroll through, in my mind’s eye, the pages I’ve just written, proofreading for errors and improvements.”
Now that we’re psyched and pumped, let’s get moving — and write on!