March 26, 2015 by Ray Yanek
7 Things I Learned about Writing through Running
Thing #6: You have to replenish the body.
When you run or do any sort of intense workout or labor, you must feed your body. You need to supply your body with the needed nutrients to repair muscle tissue and to use as a source of energy. If you don’t give your body the proper nutrition, you’re not going to run or work out very long.
That’s the problem with low-carb diets for people who undergo intense workouts. I’ve talked to bodybuilders and high school wrestlers who cut carbs in an attempt to drop weight in a short amount of time. After a couple of days of doing this, they complain about a lack of energy and mental focus. They talk about how their muscles feel flat, how everything seems like a chore, and how their thoughts grow hazy.
The problem, obviously, is that when you cut carbs too drastically, you’re cutting a prime source of energy, a prime source of fuel for your body and your brain.
I’m finding the same is true with writing–you need the carbs.
I’ve been hitting the pages pretty intensely for awhile now and I’ve been keeping up with the Bradbury challenge fairly well–but this week I’ve struggled. Ideas just didn’t want to come. I would take time to de-stress through exercise (as I wrote here) and scenes would flash in my head as I did, but when I sat down to write them, the characters involved wouldn’t reveal enough about themselves to keep those sparks lit. I wasn’t seeing their wants, missions, or motivations and I was getting frustrated.
Then I realized that maybe, like with running, I haven’t been providing my brain with the proper nutrition.
I was mentally cutting carbs, and I was feeling the effects.
So what exactly are those energy providing nutrients to fuel a writer’s creativity? I wish the answer was something original, something innovative, but unfortunately it’s not.
The source of carbohydrates for a writer is quite simply other writings.
To replenish your creativity you must, like writers have said since the beginning, read.
I know. I know. We all know writers need to read. We also know that people need to eat, yet when days get busy, sometimes we forget that important thing until someone reminds us it’s time to get a fork.
So read. There’s your reminder. The words of others are the carbs you need. Read in a genre different than what you’re working on. I had been trying to read a novel all week but I was having a hard time connecting with it–probably because I wasn’t connecting with my own fiction. I noticed then, a couple issues of The Atlantic the school librarian had saved for me and it occurred to me that I haven’t read a magazine in quite awhile. So I sat down and flipped through the pages, reading an article here and there.
In no time, I was seeing examples of character missions and wants. Themes were jumping off the page and ideas were coming.
But I didn’t actually use any of those things in the stories I would eventually write. Rather, my brain seemed to metabolize those ideas into fuel that I burned to create ideas that better suited me. A day or two later, I was back writing. The energy had returned and the words and ideas were coming.
And because I read, because I gave my mind the carbs it needed to function properly.