Perhaps it’s the introspection or angst that comes with the turning of a year, but in the brief period since the holidays for some strange reason I have been asked, on 3 separate occasions now about writers block. Although I am not quite sure how I somehow migrated to the role of one of those newspaper agony Aunts, or rather Uncles, I will do my best to answer. So I will now share some ideas, which don’t need to be restricted to the ‘smoke & mirrors’ world of the writer as they can also help with any creative process and interestingly may even help you live a longer and healthier life.
Photo by Drew Coffman
My own early experiences of the dreaded ‘block’ have pushed me into trying many solutions over the years, although with only limited success. The late Clare Boylan, a prolific writer, critic and I am glad to say friend of mine was one of the most enthusiastic examiners of the writing process I have ever known. Clare once declared that there is no such thing as writers block because it is often at worst just an excuse to allow procrastination to take over so you can be lazy or do nothing, while at best it was simply a temporary problem which could be fixed if only the writer was brave enough to change their routine for a while or find some way of getting their blood flowing faster. Of course we are all very different in our discipline, habits and needs but all I would say is that for me getting my blood flowing faster through daily walking, not only prevents writers block but it also adds greatly to the creative process and my general feeling of wellbeing.
Walking is now such a fundamental part of my own day that I seriously believe I would struggle to write anything significant without doing it. Maybe it’s my own flawed belief system kicking in but I know I would suffer much more writers block if I couldn’t enjoy the mind clearing and aerobic affect of my daily hour or so hiking across the countryside around my house. Of course I count myself lucky that I have empty roads and tracks and an endless supply of clean un-polluted sea air to breathe, but not having these advantages has never stopped me when I have been travelling or when I was living elsewhere. All you need to do is figure out a way of fitting the walk or a similar burst of exercise into your daily routine, no matter where you might find yourself.
Of course it is not just about the creative process because your whole body will eventually enjoy the benefits. You don’t need to take my word for it, this week saw the release of a report which backs this up. The report which monitored the health of more than 300,000 Europeans over 12 years suggested that as little as 20 minutes brisk walking or general exercise a day, could prevent twice as many deaths as would result if we were somehow able to eliminate obesity alone. So if that is not a good enough reason to get off your butts and get moving, I am not sure what is.
There is something about the rhythmic stride that allows your mind to gradually become detached from most daily thoughts as you focus on the initial effort of say climbing a hill or speeding up on some flatter stretches of track. Don’t worry too much about your mind feeling initially dulled as you concentrate on the effort of placing one foot in front of the other or the fact that you often walk the same route. Your body will soon begin releasing exotic wellbeing enhancing chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, which can dramatically improve your mood and receptivity to new ideas. Until gradually the benefits of what seems a quite repetitive or even boring actions (for me it is also Ironing) will help your mind enter an almost meditative state. Suddenly the answer to a problem, or something you have been trying to remember will pop into your head. For a writer this state can sometimes kick start your prose after a temporary block and for me personally, I have discovered some of my most interesting characters and solved some of my works more difficult plot twist and turns, after entering this veritable state of daydreaming as I stomp over the hills
So writers next time you feel blocked don’t just sit there scratching your head, looking at a blank screen or even looking to the heavens for inspiration. Get up, get out and get walking – your best work may be hiding, but it’s seeds could well be waiting for you somewhere out there, just blowing around in the wind.