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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Writing & Exercise

So the title of this isn't "Writing Exercises," which is a topic I've thought a lot about, but "Writing & Exercise," which is a topic I haven't.

I've long been aware that many writers are also runners, and I've thought that was due to the tendency of both activities to attract the obsessive types, or that perhaps the dual interests might have come from a desire of the writer to correct her tendency to spend so much time in her mind. Many writers who run recount writing in the morning and then running later in the day, for instance. And of course there are the yoga-writers, whom I also assumed were also rebalancing themselves from a life spent too much in the mind.

And there's John Irving, who famously is a wrestler. I could probably name more writer-athletes if I put my mind to it, and if you've got others please post them in the comments section.

So this week I was listening to a podcast interview of Lidia Yuknavitch by Brad Listi on the podcast Other People, and I learned that Yuknavitch had been a competitive swimmer since childhood and that she still swims as part of her writing process. This last bit is what caught my attention: as part of her writing process, not in reaction to it. Yuknavitch says that she tries to write from her body, a visceral kind of writing (I think that's what she said, visceral, but I don't have time to go back and find the exact quote in the podcast), and in order to do that she swims hard until she works out all that is in her head and can come to her writing with her mind emptied out through her vigorous exercise. So that she can write from her body and not from her mind.

This is not something I had ever thought about before. But it sounds very appealing. And I wonder about how other writers use exercise, and if I should reconsider my approach to it (which is unenthusiastic but thorough, so that I do get moderate daily exercise but don't as often get a good workout since I injured my foot three months ago. Should I be pursuing more strenuous exercise, and before I write in particular? Something to try, once the foot is completely healed....)


Erin said...

Hey Jessica,
Well, if you've read Lidia's books then you know that her writing is very "of the body." Her approach makes perfect sense for the way she writes.

I tend to go for a run mid-day after I've written a draft. It lets me keep the poem tossing around in my head and sometimes that helps solve any problems I've been having. I've even been known to write part of the poem on an index card to carry with me to refer to as I run.

I think that everyone is different. I have a friend whose work is very cerebral. I can't imagine her wanting to get out of her head, her work is so of her brain not her body.

Sorry to hear of your injury. Hope you're feeling better quickly.

take care,

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Erin,
Good points you make. I too am cerebral when writing, but I wish not to be. Or not all the time. Or not as much. Perhaps that's why this advice about exercise seems so intriguing to me.

I can just picture you jogging with an index card. Good for you!

Hope your back to school transition is going well!