The correlation between physical activity and creative and critical thought is one that I tend to overlook when I'm going through more sedentary periods. When I'm back at it, it smacks me in the face. Like yes, of course, THIS is what I've been missing. Move around, things get interesting.
It's different with different types of exercise, of course. Circuit training really only serves as fuel for my original swear generator ("No I don't want to do any more mountain climbers stupid ass-pumpkin lady), and yoga, though truly rewarding for me in countless ways, is the anti-thought. Like the delay button I mentioned yesterday, the point is to honor the thought that arises during the practice, but gently bat it away until after savasana. The clear and serene state of mind it fosters is a good place to work from, but you're not getting the greatest benefit if you're focusing on your thoughts during a class. It's a constant challenge for an overthinker, but it's good for me in its way.
Running is best for taking disorganized thoughts and knocking them into their proper places. When I was in grad school, Mike and I would always go for a run at night after my criticism class, that was when it fit into our schedule, but it turned out to be a necessary component. The class itself was fantastic, revelatory and difficult, taught by my all-time favorite professor (she was my mentor/idol, even if she was never informed of this fact), but I swear I wouldn't have gotten half as much from it if not for those post-class runs. There was so much information crammed into my head, the run was the best way for me to begin making sense of everything, and forming my own ideas. I can't imagine being equipped to pop a boner for Descartes if not for that mental-physical complement.
When it comes to creating something out of nothing, though, or working out a knot, there is nothing like a good walk. Walking is the glove for writing's hand. I'm not under the impression that I'm some kind of genius for pointing this out, walks figure into the writing life for everyone from Stephen King to Annie Dillard to, uh, Thoreau, I guess. But it always amazes me just how well it works. No music, no earphones. Feet on autopilot. Zone out and let your mind wander. And soon there it is, a fragment, a pop of inspiration. Something to grab onto, and a direction to take it. The idea for this entry was borne of a walk, this morning's foot-commute to work. Sure going that way takes three times as long as driving, but it turned out to be a triple bonus. In addition to getting where I needed to go and getting in a workout at the same time, I was able to enjoy a classic fall morning, AND there was the unmistakeable energy of gears turning. Excitement about putting words together.
Sure all my best bits have probably been forgotten, there is no note taking on the walk, that's the unspoken rule. The idea is to let the ideas flow, even begin imagining how you'll put them together, but then you have to wait. Mix up that brain-dough and put it aside to rise until you can get to the writing place, and then you're primed. You can't wait to get to work and make it all take shape.
Is it weird that I write so much about writing? Maybe. But at least for the moment I'm writing about writing I am doing than writing I'm not doing, so I'll continue to go with it.