Let's Get Physical

If you heard Olivia Newton-John singing “Let’s Get Physical” when you read the subject line, then you are just as old as I am – maybe older! So what does that have to do with writing?

Simply this: the most important “aha” moments that help our writing are often discovered when we aren’t writing.

How is that possible?

Welcome back to Day Three of The Writer’s Life with me, Bob Sands. This week, I’ve been giving you strategies to free the writer within so you can generate better ideas quicker. Turns out one of the best ways to do that is by not writing.

Thoreau put it like this, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." He means that if you don’t embrace life and experience the outside world, the quality of your writing will suffer. As a writer, it’s tempting to “hole up,” withdraw to the home office, and just write. But it’s a myth that the best writers labor in seclusion and only pop their head out to eat and drink.

In fact, I have found that when I am too busy to engage in life, my writing becomes disengaged.

Here are a few tips that will help you avoid this trap.

1. Disconnect from writing altogether.

Leave the keyboard behind for a bit and go to a movie, read a book, or go canoeing with the children. There is something about living that helps the creative process along and gets those writing juices flowing. Sometimes when we spend too much time with the computer, it can skew our perspective and dampen our creativity. Disconnecting, even for an hour, will help you hit the reset button.

2. Give back to the community.

A good way to reconnect with the world is to volunteer for a service project, with one caveat: don’t volunteer to write. While there is certainly nothing wrong with using your gift with words to make a difference, the point is to get involved in other ways. I have found ample opportunities to volunteer through organizations like Rotary (I’m a 12-year member of my club) and, of course, my church. Connect with whatever your community is and find a way to give back. When you do return to the page, you may be surprised by both the depth and creativity with which you produce.

3. Read widely.

That may sound simple, but you will find that the great writers are also great readers. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read fiction and nonfiction. And yes, even those headlines of the magazines you see while in the grocery store checkout line (I didn’t say buy them, though!). Everything is grist for the writer’s mill.

Some may argue that they don’t have time. I would say you have to make the time. The physical act of reading engages a separate part of the mind and will help you continue to strengthen your creative muscle. You will find you write faster and better.

So let me ask you: are you living today, I mean really living? If not, put down the pen, turn off the computer, and leave it all behind just for a time. You will be a better writer for it.

What rituals do you use to disconnect so you can write better? Please tell me about them in the comment section.

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Published: April 18, 2012

6 Responses to “Let's Get Physical”

  1. Bob,

    Thanks for contributing this guest article. Your ideas are well-taken.

    What works best for me is meditation. Through meditation, you find you have suddenly entered the realm of the unconscious.

    This subconscious is a storehouse of creativity. Tapping into that inner potential can spell the difference between success and failure.

    Some of my best ideas have emerged from this realm. Even without trying, the light bulb goes off and you can have your eureka moment as a writer. Cheers.

    Archan Mehta

  2. The time-tested ritual of a hot bubble bath, lit candles (scented or not!), a glass of wine and my e-reader is perfect for satisfying that need-to-escape itch. It relaxes body and mind, and reading while soaking opens heart and soul to new ideas and possibilities. Delicious peace...!


  3. Bob great insights,specially the one about reset button.
    I usually spend an half hour a day reading self help books in a book store, sitting in a children section watching their crazy, fun activities.

    Guest (Gaurav)

  4. Great reminders! I walk my dog in a park in morning and observe people and ESPECIALLY the trash left on the ground or under trees, all are objects of human activity, artifacts from moments when their guard is down.

    Guest (Mary ellen)

  5. Great post!

    I listen to music. I'm a music fanatic. The creativity that goes into making just one song inspires me. Even more so, lyrics often have phrases that can be sprinkled onto my writing.

    I use Pandora since it's like a playlist on shuffle. I listen to SO many different genres; it just depends on what kind of motivation I need to get in creative mode.

    Guest (Nikki R)

  6. Very true post, Bob. I have a farm which offers a balance. But any form of physical activity will do - housework, bike rides, etc. Amazing how when you engage your body but disengage your mind the inspiration that percolates up. Great way to uncover headlines and Big Ideas.

    Also important - disengage from too much info - radio, tv, social media, even books. Give your brain time to chew on what's inside of you - not what other people are feeding it!

    Guest (Sarah Your Healthy Home Biz)

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