On the Ball

- by Elaine Isaak

I am writing this from the top of my new exercise ball.  Some friend or other recommended replacing your desk chair with one of these giant yoga balls as a way to burn a few extra calories (as your body makes many tiny adjustments), work on balance, and maintain good posture.  It even came with a ball-based workout video, and my kids love it (it’s about the same height as my toddler-son).

What does this have to do with writing, you may ask?  Some of you have already figured out where I am headed and are thinking, “Oh, is that time time?  Sorry–must check up on the other blogs!”

Writers tend to be both a solitary and a sedentary species.  We spend many hours sitting alone in our offices, or occasionally, sitting in coffee houses behind the screens of laptops or simply mounds of paper that must be stetted on deadline in order to keep the publisher happy.  We all know by now that all of this sitting around is not good for the body, but I’m not sure we acknowledge that it fails the mind as well.

I am a recent convert to the idea of exercise.  I always felt that I *should* get more of it, but it wasn’t until I picked up a used bike with a baby seat that I really started doing it.  Mainly because my son wouldn’t pass by the bike without demanding a ride.  Then we spotted the climbing gym at the local Y where my daughter takes gymnastics (kids can make it hard to get much writing done, but they are good motivators in other areas).  She and I both decided to try it out, and I’ve been climbing the walls for a couple of months now.  It’s hard, sweaty work–but you can’t beat the feeling when you actually make it to the top of a challenging climb. Yes!  I did it!!

And in my sudden discovery of physical activity, I’ve found that many of the rumors are true.  I do have more energy after a workout.  I do think more clearly.   I just plain feel better, and that’s something almost everyone can use.

But the benefits for the writer go a bit deeper than that.  The simple act of committing to and completing a workout gives me a sense that I am capable, even on the days when my phone calls aren’t returned, my book is going nowhere, and another deadline is creeping up despite my best procrastination.  And significant challenges, like climbing an overhang, encourage me to push through the hard spots and to be less afraid of falling.

When my body is meaningfully occupied, the creative part of my mind is free to work on other things:  to find the solution to that plot problem in chapter three, or break through to a new character revelation.  There is an aspect of physical meditation to certain activities that I leads my story-mind to greater exploration.

My current workout “routine” includes a couple of days of indoor climbing, discovering that Nautilus machines aren’t actually the torture devices they resemble, and an array of dance-based videos including Bollywood and hula.  Each time I find a new way to challenge my body, I learn that I am challenging my mind as well.  These activities give me new metaphors and filters through which I view my work, and which I might even use directly.  Every time you learn a new skill, you have expanded yourself and the well from which you write.

I’m thinking next year, I’ll take up scuba diving. . .

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