Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net
Holly Lisle's Vision

Springtime For Writers

By Jeri-Tallee Dawson

© 2002, Jeri-Tallee Dawson

Writers are, by nature, people who tend to spend most of their time indoors, since most of us use our desktop computers to do our writing. Even handhelds and notebooks only go so far. If we are marginally serious about writing, there is a word count, page count, or a certain scene to be reached in a certain amount of time, not to speak of deadlines for those who write for a living.

But look out the window! Yes, do it now. Itís spring! Blue skies, lots of sunshine, nature re-awakening.  Are you still inside pretending it's the deepest dark of winter? Let me tell you a secret: Winter will come back. Yes. Short, overcast days that never get quite light; rain; snow; cold... you get my drift. The time to be active and outside is now.

We tend to forget that our bodies are much more than just eyes, brains, and fingers -- the writerís main tools. To write well, you need to keep your body in condition. We all know of headaches, back spasms, carpal tunnel syndrome, mouse hand, indigestion. These are all typical maladies tied to desk jobs. It doesnít have to be that way. Just half an hour of exercise two or three days a week will make a big difference in how you approach writing and life in general. And spring is just the time to start! Or donít you want to move, as you look outside and see all this loveliness developing in front of your window?

One of the main concerns of writers may be that by spending time outside, they will lose time writing. I will try to show that it doesnít have to be that way, and that your writing will actually be richer and livelier if you take time out to take good care of your body.

We tend to believe that it will take a lot of effort to start exercising, but it doesnít have to. Start easy. Go for a walk. Make a fixed appointment with yourself, your best friend, your significant other, or your kids to go for a walk around the block.  Or walk  along the river or lake, in your local forest preserve, or at another location you enjoy. It comes easier if you make this a regular habit, like walking every day for 15to 30 minutes, or walking on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at a certain time. Making it a compulsory date leaves less room for you to debate whether youíre in the mood or not on a certain day. Chances are youíll feel a lot better after the walk than you did before. But donít take my word for it Ė find out for yourself.

Depending on your personality, you may want to take your writing with you on your walk. Iím not talking of literal sheets of paper, but rather the stories in your head. Personally, I tend to look at my time outside as a writing time-out. This is my time. Curiously enough, by the time I reach home, plot knots have untangled and characters have come up with new ways to make my life interesting. Exercising can easily become a writing tool like any other.

Here are some suggestions that may help you to look at your scheduled exercise as more than a mere necessity that takes away your writing time. Breathe deeply as you walk. Open your eyes and mind to the sensations around you. How does the wind feel flowing over your skin? How do your muscles feel when theyíre tired? What is it like to feel your breath move in and out of your lungs on a cold spring morning? A warm spring afternoon? How does the forest smell as you walk? What sounds do ducks make as they go about their business? When have you last listened to the laughter of your four-year-old with a heart of wonder? These are all impressions that you will take back to the desk, and they will enliven  your writing.

If you want to progress on your exercise, walking may develop into slow jogging and running, or you might  start riding a bike, start using inline skates, or even progress to mountain climbing. Give nature a chance to make an impression on you. Thereís plenty of time for the treadmill or the indoor bike in winter.

Try different times of day, too. How does walking and being outside at the crack of dawn feel? How about midday sunshine? How does it feel to be in the forest when it just gets dark? Can you already see yourself sitting down for writing with these impressions, and making your charactersí quest through the Forest of Darkness so much more vivid?

If you have never exercised before, or not in a long time, you may find that your body feels sluggish and tired as you start. It may be a good idea to do some inside cleaning there, to get out the toxins and the winter slush. Go on a veggie-only or fruit-only day. Drink plenty of water. If you feel you will never make it, try to imagine youíre one of your characters fasting. Sheís freeing her mind and body of excess thoughts and excess ballast, as are you now. Allow yourself that experience on a day that you have time to actually experience it. Being on a fast or a total food change day when youíre in the middle of a stress week at work will frustrate you more than anything.

Listen to your body as you get ready to exercise. Does it feel better to walk with an empty or a full stomach? Are you hungry or thirsty after walking? Do you feel better when you load up on carbs, or leave them out? Every personís metabolism is different, and whatís most important is that you feel invigorated and healthy.

If you feel youíre too tired after work, or a disability or sickness is keeping you from being very active, try moving a lawn chair outside or just in front of a window that you can open to let in some sunshine. Snuggle up in a nice, warm blanket and enjoy the sun on your skin. Breathe deeply. Doze off. Just donít pretend itís winter any more!