Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Reach For The Stars

Motivational Me, Circa 2010
In honor of the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) two-year anniversary, I started back to the gym today. Well... yes, I started going back to the gym, but not for that reason.

Three years ago, I took the Body For Life challenge. I lost an amazing 35 lbs. and felt great. I took a writer's workshop in St. George, Utah with David Farland and made lots of friends. Life felt like it was finally going in the right direction.

After three years of watching the scale climb past my beginning Body For Life weight, things are looking pretty bleak. I've developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and to complicate matters, I have teenagers. Which came first, the teenagers or the anxiety? You decide.

But I digress...

So, after encouragement from my doctor and therapist, I finally decided I really needed to go to the gym. My wife, knowing we both needed gym time, got us all squared away so we could start going again.

And then nothing happened.


Well, mainly my GAD kicked in because, lets admit it, the world--and life in general--is just better when you stay in bed all day. The biggest problem I was experiencing was failure to start.

'Tomorrow,' I'd say. Daily. Until I realized it wasn't true. I wasn't going to start unless I actually did it. So I decided to skip my morning refill, and start off slowly at the gym. And I enjoyed it, even though I was out of my comfort zone. Now I won't be able to beat myself up for starting. Now it's about continuing.

One of the things that motivated me to jump in was an address author Stephen Lovely gave to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. He began by discussing several strong points that studies have found concerning mental health and creativity.

"First, the suicide rate among writers and artists in nearly 20% higher than the among the general population. Second, writers and artists are 10 to 20 times more likely to suffer from manic depressive illness than non-artists. Third, writers and artists are nearly 10 times more likely to experience major depression. The lives of writers are full of mental illness, mood disorders, psychosis, anxiety and hospitalizations. The only good news for we fiction writers, is that the poets suffer far worse.

The link between mental illness and creativity has been studied at length, and it's pretty clear that both share a genetic and/or neurological substrate, a common ancestor. Whatever genetic inheritance you received from your ancestor that predisposes you to be a creative writer, chances are that same inheritance may predispose you to suffer from mental illness. It's not that having a mental illness allows you to be a talented writer, but that being a talented writer makes you mentally ill. Don't laugh, plenty of people believe this.

. . . .

I want to tell you about a drug I take for this problem. A drug on which I've come to depend. This drug increases cerebral blood flow increasing the supply of glucose and oxygen and nutrients to the brain, while removing toxic substances. It improves the brain's performance increases alertness and attention and memory and the ability to process complex thoughts. It prepares and stimulates brain cells to bind together, even encourages the growth of new cells as you age, replacing dying cells And, get this, it alleviates depression and relieves stress and increases confidence.

It's a writers dream drug.

Do you know what it is? It's not Adderall, it's exercise, specifically aerobic exercise. In my experience, exercise has done more good for the sustained project of my writing than just about anything else."

So anyway, that hit me pretty hard, and I knew I needed to do something. It's all about finding balance, and when you don't have any, moving in a positive direction is a good thing.

Now I'm exercising. Are you?

To listen to Stephen Lovely's full address, download it from iTunes under the Writing University podcasts.


  1. "the suicide rate among writers and artists in nearly 20% higher than the among the general population."

    Wow. That's kind of scary.

    I exercise on my treadmill--with a board across the handle thingies and my laptop on it. I usually get in 30-40 minutes. I start at 2 and ease it to a 3. That's as fast as I can walk and type at the same time. I love it. I no longer feel guilty for having to choose between two things I need to do.

  2. Due to health issues over the past two years, I, too have packed on unwanted pounds. It is so true that exercise fixes a lot of things. I have a treadmill calling me!

  3. Exercise is good. I get really grouchy if I don't get a good Kempo workout or a few nice walks in each week.

    I hate it when experts are right.

  4. I crave exercise now, which kinda scares me because sometimes when I exercise in the morning, I want to go back to the gym that same night.I've never been like that, ever. But I'm addicted to the way I feel after a good, brisk walk.Not only do I feel physically good, I also feel mentally good because I have accomplished something!


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