Novel Writing

One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity (but you probably won’t like it)

If I told you there was a magic pill that increased your concentration, sparked the imagine and improved perseverance, would you take it? I bet you’d do it, I certainly would!

What if I told you that exercise could do all those things for you? I can hear your groans, and feel your annoyance. Irritating isn’t it? 

Most of us would rather not need to exercise. We’d rather eat what we want and have the perfect, slender, magazine ready body, without having to slip on our trainers. What a wonderful world that would be. The sad fact is that to keep our bodies healthy we need to exercise. It’s a non-negotiable (trust me I tried to negotiate my way out of it for years).

I never loved exercise, couldn’t catch without shutting my eyes and was hopeless at running. I hid in the shower room during PE. However, after avoiding exercise until the age of twenty-four, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness where the primary treatment was exercise. Every time I stood up the room span, and I almost fainted. The only option for me was to start exercising lying down until I grew strong enough to stand and exercise without fatigue. It was hellish, to begin with, but now I am the fittest I have ever been and have found whole hosts of benefits I would like to share with you. (Also my condition is completely managed, and I can live normally again – Hooray!)

Exercise increases your energy levels – It’s counter-intuitive isn’t it? I previously assumed that since you expend energy during exercise, that you are tired out from it. While that is true in the short-term, in the long run, you are more energetic. Early mornings are easier (potentially late nights for others). Finding time to write gets easier if you have more energy.

Exercise improves your sleep quality – Perhaps one of the reasons you have more energy is that you sleep better. Tiring out the body helps sleep and sleep produces a clearer mind. Hello clarity, nice to meet you, please come and assist me in my writing.

Exercise allows imagination to flow – When you are peddling away on an exercise bike or stomping your way on the treadmill your body is occupied, but your brain can wander. You are a captive audience. You can’t remember that urgent chore and go away and do it. You can’t phone that friend you’ve forgotten to contact. Your mind can soar into the realms of creativity and imagination, and your practical body is occupied – it can’t drag you away.

Exercise gives you confidence – I’m actually not talking about body confidence here, but confidence in your own mental strength. There is something incredibly satisfying in achieving something you never thought you could. It takes dedication, commitment, and, let’s be honest, pain to get physically fit. We need all those things in writing, and the skills learnt in exercise do translate over.

Exercise prevents “Writers Neck” – Is it writers neck or back for you? I get neck pain when I type for too long. Exercise keeps our backs healthy (especially pilates) which is a real bonus for those of us who write for extended periods of time. The pain may be manageable now, but we want to write long-term, don’t we? Exercise is one way to secure our future as writers.

The most important thing I would like to say is that this post is not meant to guilt trip anyone. I would hate for anyone to read this and leave feeling condemned because they don’t want to exercise. You be you, and what works for me may not work for you. There may be some out there, however, who are missing something and may want to give exercise a try. 

I would love to hear from you in the comments section whether you agree or disagree. I love a good discussion!

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55 thoughts on “One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity (but you probably won’t like it)

  1. This is an awesome article, thank you for sharing! I’m sorry about your illness, but glad that you are doing much better.

    I’ve recently started an exercising program, and I definitely feel better in general. Sometimes, if I don’t enough rest at night, I feel a bit groggy the next morning. But, overall, I do tend to sleep better, feel better about myself, my mind (I think) is more creative, and most times I feel more energetic. Honestly, you have done a fabulous job writing this piece and I look forward to more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! The start of an exercise program is always so tough. There is real body ache that needs sleep to overcome it. Soon, though, it will become like second nature and your body will actually feel weird when you go while without exercise. Best of luck to you 🙂

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  2. Hello Amy, you stopped by my site earlier this morning (thank you) and I thought I would return the favour. I am enjoying reading your posts so far, and thought I would comment on this one as I can add to one of your points regarding sleep quality. I find when I have a busy day writing, my mind goes into overdrive thinking about what happens next, whilst trying to fill in any plot holes. This is great, for the most part, it gives me work to be getting on with. However, it is less good when you are trying to sleep. My first serious attempt at a short story kept me awake until four in the morning figuring it all out. I get that semi frequently so some exercise is generally the only way to get a good night’s sleep. Though, as I am not particularly fit I do run the risk of falling asleep on the couch when I least expect it!

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    1. Hello John, thank you so much for stopping by. You make a very valid point here. Mind fog and nagging thoughts in the night are a problem, but I also find exercise helps. I’m sure someone has worked out why, but I’m not quite sure.

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      1. Never thought of it as mind fog, truth be told. I suspect it is to do with simply being tired, but tired from physical exertion which helps me nod off.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is true I’m sure. I’ve felt the benefit of exercise myself but finding the right level of exercise is hard. I can’t exercise as much as other people. So I have to do my small share and then stand up for myself when people try to push me harder or belittle me. It’s a condition I have but I’ve learnt to have confidence in my ability to handle it now. I do think clearer and I enjoy writing (well everything!) more after exercise.

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  4. Good article. Exercise has always helped me to relax and relieve tension. I usually exercise at home without weights and run on occasion. Sometimes I will not let myself write until I’ve done some good exercise. I feel good afterwards and it does help me write. The hardest bit for me was actually getting into a routine in the first place.

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  5. I totally agree with this! I love going for long walks and daydreaming about storylines and plot points. The fresh air and sunlight does wonders for the imagination. And exercise also keeps my energy high. I always thought it would do the opposite and make me too tired to write but my new routine is to go to the gym in the morning and write when I come home. It’s working really well!

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    1. That sounds like my ideal routine! At the moment I am writing in the morning, working and then going to gym in the evening. It’s a real slog to get to the gym after work. Sunshine is another imagination booster, you are right. Thank you for your comment 🙂

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  6. I’m with you, Amy. I hate exercise – always have and always will. Everything you’re saying is right, but I’m so badly out of shape that even light exercise is very unpleasant and exhausting – a formidable deterrent. Some day I’ll get on the wagon and stay on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is horrid I agree! Especially if you’re out of the habit. It is worth it in the end but the start is brutal! One of the other commenters mentioned how a walk in the fresh and sunshine enables her to let her imagination run wild. There’s always something for everyone, and it’s not always exercise. Thank you for commenting

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      1. Walking was always my favourite exercise – I’d power walk 6 km 5-6 days a week before breakfast – in about 45 minutes. Now I limp through one km with aching hips. So much for that small pleasure. I just have to work up the courage to subject myself to the torture on a regular basis.

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  7. This is a subject I was planning to tackle at some point. When transitioning from a full time job to being a full time writer, I assumed that I would have more time to go out running etc.
    A combination of injury and illness meant that I didn’t get out as much as planned and the lack of walking to the Metro station and lunchtime stroll around town each day meant I was actually doing a lot less exercise.
    I’m hoping I’m well enough to get out running regularly again so I have a half marathon scheduled in for September despite being well behind where I hoped to be.
    Then there’s the parallels between running and writing. The struggle to get started. The slog of actually doing the work then the exhilaration of hitting your daily target.

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  8. Amy you’re so right. I’m trying to schedule in exercise for my health. (Neck pain). Otherwise I’d keep reading and writing throughout the day as usual. I get lost and forget to take breaks, so I’m setting alarms on my phone. So far it’s helping, when I don’t ignore it. Discipline is the key word 🙂

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      1. A quick tip to relieve head and upper neck pain that I learned from physical therapy: place two tennis balls in a clean sock and tie. Laying flat on your back, place the balls at back of head and turn head side to side, and up and down. It helps immensely. Thanks again, Amy, for writing about taking care of our health.

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  9. I am so glad to have come across this post. I too, hid in the bathroom every P.E lesson! But after some recent illness, I realized how important it is to get fit. I also have writers block. Exercise you say, can fix both and I am all for it. I did try hitting the gym but it was not for me. Home work outs are on the agenda for now. Lots of love and keep going! ❤

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. I am so glad it was an encouragement to you. I wish you lots of success in your home workouts. They worked very well for me for about a year I joined a gym for the second time and loved it. 🙂

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  10. Great read and you couldn’t be more right. Even just getting up from your chair, desk, couch or wherever else you may be and going for a 5-10 minute short walk every 30-45 minutes can do wonders for you. Not to mention get your blood flowing = increase productivity.

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