Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Writing, Walking and the Brain


I like to walk. During the summer, I do it frequently but not as much (daily) as I need for a good exercise routine. Often I walk because my legs ache from sitting too long (and I know sitting too long is very unhealthy). Writers often lose sense of time while working and end up sitting too long. When my legs say move, I walk. Besides enjoying how my walk route changes during the seasons, the action seems to clear my mind almost like meditation. I can’t say that's true because I’m not sure I’ve ever reached a meditative state, but it is relaxing.

Sometimes I use walking as an escape from a plot or character refusing to cooperate. While walking, my mind starts playing with the problem and comes up with a new tact for smoother sailing through that problematic scene or discovers a better motivation for a cranky character. Other times my brain just seems to spasm and imagine a totally different character and situation, so it is not a sure-fire cure for writing problems.

I always thought this was a result of getting away from my desk, but a recent study at Stanford University indicates it might be the action of walking. Their study found the act of walking increased creative thinking through simple tests given to participants after the exercise. They found walking did not focus thoughts as in critical thinking, converging thoughts to find a single correct answer, but released them in a divergent process of creativity. Is it only walking that creates this brain connection? Those doing the study haven’t studied that aspect yet. This study has been reported through many different media outlets since the study's release this past spring, which I missed, but I’m happy to learn that when I do something for my body and health, I'm also doing it for my brain.

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