By Michael F. Stewart
Let’s talk a little about guilt. Writing often feels like a guilty pleasure. If you’re a good writer you likely have the intelligence, dedication, and communication skills to be doing something else that makes a lot more money. Money isn’t everything, I know, but for most of us, we’re talking orders of magnitude more money. Already I feel a bit guilty about the time I spend in front of my keyboard. How then can I justify a regular run? How entitled is that? I suggest it’s because I do some of my best work on that run. If I’m going to write, I need to run.
Running, and walking too, is creative time. It’s time when one of two things occurs. I collect snatches of dialogue, plot turns, character quirks, etc. (I run with a pen and paper) and, if I exercise for long enough, it’s when the ideas come.
Running is mesmerizing. The same thing doesn’t happen to me if I’m in a kayak or swimming or playing tennis, only with running because I don’t need to attend to my body when I’m running. I can let my mind wander.
But it’s not immediate. I find it takes twenty or so minutes to flush the small crap from my head. The petty annoyances, the to-do list, or other admin stuff that comes with life. After twenty minutes comes the gold.
There is a caveat to all of this. You need to be competent enough that running or walking briskly isn’t hard. If I take time off running, I usually require a couple runs before my mind can wander again and I’m not fighting for breath or concentrating on where I’m putting my feet (or just in pain). I never regret the effort though.
If I write myself into a corner, the best thing I can do is go for a run—I always find a surprising solution. If every word is a struggle to get on the page, a run loosens me up. It gives me four or five writing prompts to return to the keyboard with. And a great deal more energy to boot.
Next time you’re facing a blank page, consider skipping the usual advice to just write even if it’s crap. Sometimes the best solution to a writing challenge is to run away from it!
Michael F. Stewart is the author of the Assured Destruction Series. He likes to combine storytelling with technology and pioneered interactive storytelling with Scholastic Canada, Australia and New Zealand’s, anti-cyberbullying program Bully For You. He has authored four graphic novels with Oxford University Press Canada’s award winning Boldprint series. Publications of nonfiction titles on Corruption and Children’s Rights published by Rubicon Publishing as well as early readers with Pearson are all forthcoming in 2014 and 2015.
For adults, Michael has written THE SAND DRAGON a horror about a revenant prehistoric vampire set in the tar sands, HURAKAN a Mayan themed thriller which pits the Maya against the MS-13 with a New York family stuck in the middle, 24 BONES an urban fantasy which draws from Egyptian myth, and THE TERMINALS—a covert government unit which solves crimes in this realm by investigating them in the next. This series has already been optioned for film and television.
Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he runs free writing workshops for teens and adults. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at http://www.michaelfstewart.com/ or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.