July 8, 2013

How to Get Ideas without Resorting to Writing Prompts

I had the blessed opportunity of attending Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) last month and hearing YA author Kris Chandler tell me to run a marathon. Just kidding. She actually said *not* to run a marathon (even though she herself runs marathons), which I appreciated because I'm often tempted. I'll take it from the expert. Running 26.2 miles takes too much time. Especially for writers. Especially for slow runners and writers like me.

What Kris said I *should* do is exercise. Easy, right?? Way better than having to write a three-paragraph story based on five random objects pulled from a cruel writing professor's sack!


Maybe for some of us, jogging is worse than a writing prompt. But it works. Here's how: exercise flushes cortisol from the brain, a stress hormone that makes it hard to think creatively. Solitary exercise, like walking, helps your brain dig into the subconscious and find unexpected solutions to problems. Give your brain some endorphins and extra oxygen, and your characters might start shouting their secrets in your ears. Kris was referencing this article, if you want proof.

Now I'm thinking of getting one of those tall computer desks that straddles a treadmill. And a treadmill.

When and where do you get most of your creative inspiration, if not while out for a jog? What do you like better: a writing exercise or real exercise?

8 comments:

Sylinda's Life said...

I find that exercise for my body relaxes my brain, and thoughts flow more freely that are really substantial. Working, like yard work is incredibly therapeutic.

Kim Webb Reid said...

Sylinda, I'm the same way. Except I need to exercise not just to relax my brain but to stay sane, actually. Which I don't. So now you know why I'm crazy.

dgirl said...

Let me know if the treadmill works. I have my own ghetto version that I've been doing. I place my laptop on a bookshelf that's at the right height and walk in place. My husband and kids think I look like a weirdo. In all fairness, I do. But it does seem to help me focus on my writing instead of wandering into the kitchen for something to eat when I get stumped.

Kim Webb Reid said...

Wow, dgirl, you've actually tried this! And I thought I was being so clever. Glad to hear from an expert that it works--at least as distraction from snacks.

Rissa said...

I'm going to use this article to lobby for a mini-gym to be installed in the office next door to me. The guy who was there just moved out. Perfect.

Seriously, though—thanks for sharing this! And to answer your parting question, I think a combination of both would be perfect. A writing exercise AFTER a real exercise!

Kim Webb Reid said...

Rissa, Chad is gone? That would be a great use for his office!! I approve!

Kimberly Kay said...

I've found that when I get stumped, if I get up and do the dishes or my laundry or something, it gives my brain a chance to work through my story, and pick out what's working or not, so that once I'm done with my chores, I can get right back to my writing! Not sure that counts as exercise, but it's useful!

As for exercise that's legit, treadmills do seem like a good idea (especially since I am NO runner). For fantasy writers, I'd recommend fencing though. Kind of puts one in the mood to write a dramatic battle sequence ;)

Kim Webb Reid said...

Kimberly, great tips! And thanks for following my blog. :)