Writer’s Block – Part 1 – Physical Issues

Dolmen on the Burren in Ireland

Dolmen on the Burren in Ireland (c) Mark Aidan Bergin

Mind, body and spirit work together. Each influences the others.

Today’s blog is about being in the best physical form that you can. I will not touch on emotional issues here – I’ll deal with them in a later blog.

This one’s about the body.

Writing requires energy. Physical energy.

I’m not going to talk about starting a grueling exercise program or becoming a food extremist.

There are many things we can do to optimize our energy. Without creative energy, how can we write?

Stuck in a rut? Nothing’s moving from your mind to your fingers doing the writing? Time for a body checkup. I don’t mean a trip to a doctor. Review your life.

Nutrition: Are you generally taking healthy food into your body? The notion of “generally” is key. I’m not advocating you become some neurotic soul obsessing over every milligram entering your body.

But that sugar hit at 2 p.m. could be cutting your creativity an hour later. Your energy disintegrates about an hour after significant sugar intake. I love chocolate. but I don’t usually begin my writing times with a bowl full of chocolate, licorice and potato chips in my hand. I know that when I guzz that sweet heaven into my body, an hour later I won’t be productive in my writing. So why do it? It’s deceptive. It’s not good for my body, but oh what sweet sensations. Allow yourself to be human.

Don’t bother going sugar-free. When I read “no sugar added” or “low fat,” that means they’ve added all kinds of carcinogens instead of sugar. No thanks. Why not just give me a gallon of antifreeze to drink? It has the same nutritional value as “no sugar” and “low fat” items. Antifreeze is toxic. No sane person would touch it. So why put other toxins in our bodies?

There are many references out there on nutritional health. I won’t repeat things here.

Movement/Exercise: Spend all your time curled up on a couch or office chair? How, then, is creative energy supposed to flow?

A brief walk around the block could turn you into a more creative writer. How? By priming your brain for creativity.

Whenever I’m stuck creatively or emotionally, I find that extra time performing karate kata, walking the dogs, enjoying parkour, or simply walking through the woods can make a difference. You don’t need to spend money on a gym membership. There’s lots you can do on your own. When you’re feeling restless and non-creative, get up and go for a walk around the block, or stand up and stretch for five minutes. Rotate your neck. Roll your shoulders.

Sleep: Are you getting enough? Sleep refreshes us; it renews the body, which includes the brain. Beyond simply replenishing the creative engine, sleep is a time when we heal. Try to get as much as you can at night. Don’t be embarrassed about a short afternoon nap. If your eyes are feeling heavy and you don’t think you can hold them open another moment, lie down and take a half hour nap. Drift away. You’ll be in better shape when you return to waking land.

Your own rhythm: When are you most creative: 3 a.m., 6 a.m., 2 p.m., 11 p.m.? Don’t try to pull creative energy during a time when you typically are not creative. If you can write like a demon at 3 a.m., why not make that your regular writing time? Who cares what the world says about 9 – 5?

Switch pace. When I feel stuck in one creative area, I find it helpful to tap a different circuit. If nothing’s coming for a scene, paragraph, sentence or word I’m trying to write, I may get off the keyboard/put the pen down and pick up a guitar for an hour. It gives one part of my brain a break and taps into another area, which sometimes catalyzes the stuck part back into action.

Consider other pace changes. If the words aren’t coming to the page, get up, pour a warm bath and enjoy the soothing waters for 15 minutes. Then go for a walk around the block or do some stretching in your home. Now try going back to the keyboard. Caution: don’t use these other activities as techniques to avoid writing. You’re looking for inspiration, not an excuse not to write.

How about touch? Humans need physical contact. Suppose you live alone with a couple of plants or a goldfish—they’re not the best cuddlers, and we each need contact with others. I’m introverted, but still need contact. Touch. If you are going through an alone time, maybe a massage is in order. Well, actually, a massage is always in order. What a great way to refresh body and mind. Are you an animal person? Maybe it’s time for a dog or cat to join your life. I’m a dog person. I have two of the beasties. Much of the time when I’m writing, one of them is leaning on me. I stroke them, squish them with my fingers and enjoy their presence. There’s an abundance of research that indicates that pet ownership reduces blood pressure and de-stresses people, providing you like animals. If you don’t like dogs, don’t go out and get one, hoping it will bring you stress relief. It will more likely increase it. Drastically.

We need lots of touch. We’re wired to need it. Hugs are life savers on a physical and mental level.

Pain: How do you deal with emotional and physical pain? Meds? drinking? I realize some brilliant writers were/are raging alcohol and/or drug consumers. Not the best route for most of us mere mortals.

A future blog will deal with psychological reasons for writer’s block and how to handle emotional pain while staying creative. I’ll also offer some practical methods for tapping new ideas. See a previous blog for the notebook suggestion. https://markbergin.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/writing-tools-practical-advice/

About Mark Aidan Bergin

Writer, editor, photographic artist specializing in dance, theater, concert, fashion and street photography....sometimes musician. Explorer of arts, culture and world, and all things Celtic and Gotham. On a good day, or perhaps a bad day, simply a mad (FOOBAR, not angry) scientist.
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