I never know when writing ideas will strike. They seem to come at me at the most inopportune moments like when I’m in the shower, on a walk far away from pen and paper or my laptop, or in those fleeting moments before I fall asleep and I’m too tired to get up and write. Sometimes, I capture the idea and record it in my virtual notebook on my computer where it will sit idly by waiting for me to flesh it out. I have a long list of ideas in my notebook, enough to keep me busy for years, but so far only four of those ideas have been turned into novels. and a few short stories.
Despite the slow pace of turning these ideas into viable stories, I’m always searching for new ones, whether it’s a concept for an entire novel, a scene for a novel I’m working on, or just a character that just doesn’t seem to work or come to life for me. Like many things creative, I can’t just make them happen. In fact, many times when I sit down to write, the words flow from my fingertips like they’re possessed by some unseen creative demon. I get “in the zone” like an athlete competing in the Olympics and the words just come out. When I’m done, I’m often relieved like getting it out was a strenuous exercise or an arduous task of some kind; although, I’m aware that anyone catching me in the act of writing while reclined in my favorite chair would think it is anything but grueling.
While I’ve never been able to capture this genie in a bottle, there are some reliably predictable situations where creativity seems to flow in a symbiotic way that feeds my mind. I’m sure many writers have their methods, but for me, running is that elixir that produces the right volatile mix of exertion and ideas that seem to intermingle in the ether and fuel new ideas, characters, or scenes that help me work through the latest challenge in my stories. My wife often asks me to take my young son outdoors so that he can play and get his “ya-yas” out. Well, running is a way for me to get my creative “ya-yas” out, so to speak.
I usually write in the early mornings before I run. On some mornings, the words just flow like honey from a jar. On others, the blank page and blinking cursor taunt me like an implacable infant while my words stutter and stumble across the page like a drunken sailor. No matter which condition afflicts me, a good run will work it all out. Running after a particularly good writing session just fuels more ideas as if I am writing on the trail with my feet. Running after a challenging session seems to help me work out the kinks and get back on track. There’s something to be said about the seemingly mindless act of exerting oneself physically. It frees the mind to wander and investigate those areas that one may be reluctant to peruse in a more conscious state. In my case, it helps me through the challenge of writing. It’s the only thing that works consistently time and again.
After a good run, I’m clear-eyed and alert. My mind is keenly focused. I feel like I can conquer any story or overcome any writer’s block that may lurk on that dastardly blank page. If I’m so inclined, I’ll run and then return and write even if it’s just a scribble on a few pages or hastily typed in my virtual notebook. A run-fueled surge of ideas is often the perfect cure for all that ails my writing, a nice reset that puts me back on the path to my journey as an author.