Yesterday I mentioned several things I would do differently if I were to go back and write my thesis again (see “If I were to write my thesis again.”), but I left out one very important item: exercise! 

A writer’s best friend.

When I was a teenager I played some sport every day multiple times in a day. In the winter we played football before class started, on lunch break, and sometimes on a side street in my old neighborhood after school. Weekends were a mixture of watching college football on Saturdays, the NFL on Sundays, and trying to mimic what we saw on TV in between. I played a lot of basketball as well, all outdoors. Sometimes we played at the court at my school, sometimes in my friends backyard, and often at a nearby middle school. Summers reintroduced baseball each year. Although this is my favorite game in the world it is the one where I was least gifted.

In my late teens into college, after college, and in graduate school I slowed way down. I played basketball on rare occasions, some football, no baseball. My primary excuse had to do with time management and prioritizing my studies. Why play basketball for two hours when I could be reading.

This was a mistake that I am realizing only recently.

I got a gym pass a few months ago and I have been playing basketball with college students from Portland State University about five days a week. I may not read and write for four or five hours at night after work, but my two or three hours are far more productive. My writing is clearer as well. After a few games of basketball I can shower, sit down, and read or write away. My brain feels awake.

I know this has something to do with endorphin release, blood flow, and a variety of other health benefits that come from exercise, but I didn’t realize what a “game changer” (pun intended) playing basketball could be for my writing time. It really makes a big difference.

When I was writing my thesis there were many times when I faced writer’s block. Sadly, I thought that if I stared at the computer a little longer I could overcome it. False. I didn’t. I wasted many days.

So my advice is get out, run, throw something, catch something, jump a bit, lift something heavy, but don’t sit there. The demon of writer’s block is best exorcised from exercise.