Writer’s Block: It’s in Your Head, Isn’t It?

I came across this brilliant article in The New Yorker the other day, Why Walking Helps Us Think by Ferris Jabr, which offers a whistle-stop tour of the established link between walking and the formation of ideas, and of its literary champions, from Joyce, to Woolf, to Nabokov. Anyone who knows me will know I’m not about to start campaigning on the virtues of vigorous exercise (I am exhausted just writing the words!); it was the specific emphasis on walking and its influence on creative thinking, and thence on writing, that drew my attention.

Unless you are lucky enough to make a full-time career of writing fiction (and to those who are, I applaud you [albeit a little greenly]), you will, no doubt, have a day-job and in a great many cases, a desk-job. Sedentary, isn’t it? Outside of the workplace, we are a sofa-loafer culture anyway. And the very act of writing, necessitates, for the most-part, one’s bum to be firmly attached to one’s seat. Or does it?

With sluggish bodies, come sluggish minds. Who hasn’t looked forward to that golden hour set aside in the day for writing, sat down to their computer/note-book/type-writer/sheet of velum, with fingers/pen/pencil/quill poised and waited, frustration mounting, for the creative magic to happen? Before you know it, the hour is up, it’s time to make the dinner, and your output is: nil. Or a tentative sentence or two at best.

And so, I say, let the juices flow, quite literally: get up, get walking (meandering pace imperative), and get the blood coursing; the oxygen circulating; the endorphins pumping. But this isn’t just reserved for those allocated writing hours, either. Take any opportunity you have within your working day to walk rather than drive: between work sites; to meetings; as part of the daily commute. Set aside half the lunch hour to walk, free yourself up and get inspired. The actual translation of these thoughts into prose can come later. The important thing is you’ve given yourself time to stimulate them in the first place. Lubricate your body: lubricate your mind. It’s not a new concept, I know. But I think it’s genius in its simplicity and I don’t think it hurts to have a reminding nudge now and then. It’s easy to look past the obvious, especially when it’s staring you in the face (cue blank page).

Maybe this is the answer to freeing us from these episodes of so-called writer’s block. Maybe we simply need to reconnect and wander for a wonder. Maybe this way, we really will find that it is in our heads, after all. The idea we were seeking, that is.


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