The Active Writer

Written by Emily Harstone | February 20, 2014

Phillip Roth has often said that he walks a mile for every page he writes. He also writes those pages standing up. Hemingway was also known for standing while he wrote, and many modern writers from John Green to Susan Orleans have been known to use a treadmill desk.

The famous Japanese Novelist Haruki Murkami wrote an entire book about how running helped him write. Kay Ryan, a former poet laureate for the United States, also has a daily running routine, but there are also famous writers who swear by boxing, swimming, yoga, ballet and all sorts of other activities not just in terms of keeping themselves fit, but in terms of improving their writing. After all exercise is scientifically proven to make you smarter.

Over a decade ago I joined a gym and ever since then I have made sure that I have exercised five to six days a week. Over this decade my writing has really improved, partially because of the thoughts and energy I put into exercise help refresh my brain and my writing reserves. I have come up with some of my best writing ideas on walks, runs, and kayaking trips.

I don’t swear by any particular kind of exercise. Any kind of exercise helps improve your writing, and helps bring new thoughts out into the open. When at a writing retreat in rural Washington I will walk and hike to get my exercise. While traveling I will use the elliptical at my hotel. If there is no elliptical I will do sit ups, squats, push ups, and various other exercise in my room. I just make sure I am always active.

Now the trick to this is getting into the habit of exercising.  Start slowly if you have not exercised in a while. Walk around your neighborhood for 15 minutes every day, or do 25 crunches, 20 squats, and 5 pushups and go from there. Make sure whatever you are doing is within your comfort zone and gradually work towards doing more. Make sure to check with your doctor if you are unsure.

I have become a much better writer, and a much happier human being since integrating daily exercise into my routine.