“My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.” –William Faulkner
Many famous writers have sought their muse at the bottom of a bottle or in a cloud of smoke. Faulkner, Hemingway, and Poe found inspiration in liquor while Keats, Baudelaire, and Browning often wrote in an opium haze.
Even though many famous authors’ dependence on drugs and alcohol wasn’t always related to their effort to create, it’s undeniable that during their period of addiction they produced some of the most beautiful and timeless writing.
So what does that mean for we yet unknown writers who wish to unleash our creativity?
It means if you want to write, get high. Fortunately I’ve figured out a way that is both relatively safe and cheap. You don’t need a prescription nor do you need to frequent a dark alley to meet a dodgy man in dirty jeans and an ironic superhero t-shirt. The best part is scoring this drug won’t result in incarceration or death.
Warning: it’s very addictive. So, what is it?
Half of you just nodded knowingly. The other half groaned.
For those of you who understand the power of this high, feel free to continue reading for further validation. And for those of you who grumbled, rolled your eyes, or uttered some profanity, give me the opportunity to explain and hopefully convince you of the virtues of lacing up.
I realize that for some people, running offers little more than sore knees, a stiff back and serious chaffing. However, when conditioned and done in moderation, running enhances your neurological performance in a way that heightens your creativity and increases your productivity.
In short, you write. You write because ideas flow, plotlines untangle, characters become clear, and stories unfold effortlessly with each footfall.
Although I speak from experience, science supports my claim. Studies have shown that running increases cell production in the hippocampus and changes have been recorded in the frontal lobe of individuals who have engaged in running long term.
More details about these studies can be found here.
However, the best mental benefit, in my opinion, is the prolonged meditative state that I enjoy only when I run. Although scientists have yet to connect this beautifully transcendent experience to running, we runners know it exists. It doesn’t always come easily, or quickly, though.
Almost every run begins with my entire body begging me to stop. The pounding of each step is jarring. The increase in speed causes me to gasp like a guppy on land and the fatigue in my limbs makes them feel wooden and heavy. One foot in front of the other—I keep running. My mind screams, “Stop! Slow down. Stop!” I don’t. I know after this brief pain will come a pleasure worthy of each initial challenging step.
After fifteen minutes, small beads of sweat stream down my temples. Now warm, my pliable muscles move effortlessly as my body falls into an easy and comfortable rhythm. My breathing steadies: I listen peacefully to the metronomic sound of each inhale and exhale. I’m no longer in pain. In fact, I feel good.
I mentally assess my joints, muscles, and breathing. Finding nothing labored, my mind calms. My thoughts are no longer focused on every step. Instead I’m thinking about everything and nothing. My mind wanders, journeying to past times and future possibilities only to come back to the present in a blissful moment of mindfulness.
It’s during these moments that I’ve mentally sketched characters, written complete paragraphs and decided on an ending for my next novel. The promised meeting of my muse is the reason I push through the first difficult steps. After miles run, I slow my pace, allowing myself to feel the rush of my runner’s high. A high that causes heady ideas to come so quickly, I rush to find the nearest pen.
If you don’t believe me, perhaps you will consider the opinion of a famous author whose high didn’t come from alcohol or opiates. It was Joyce Carol Oates who said, “Running! If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think of what it might be.”
Still unconvinced? Excuse me a moment while I unlace my sneakers.
Okay. How do you think I wrote this post?
Thank you for reading. I’m excited to hear what you think.