Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Running your rituals

All writers have their rituals, their ways of helping the ideas flow. I am constantly reminded that writer’s block does not exist, that it is an excuse used by the lazy or fearful to commit words to paper, or ether. Stephen King once said that “Writer’s block only exists in the amateur, the professional just does the work.” Not wanting to be an amateur I do the work. Except on days when I’m just lazy and I admit to it as such. In my creative times  I must sit at my keyboard, or as I type this today, at my asthmatic laptop wheezing away in the background as the words flow from my brain, through my fingers to the tapping sound of the keys to produce words that now sit inside your brain.

I remember reading about the disciplined way that Dan Brown writes. He will rise at 4am each day and type 2000 words a day and finish around 6am ready to move on having done the ‘work’. To help his ideas flow he will hang upside down in his gravity boots, suspended from the ceiling or a door frame; I can’t say this would work for me, but I haven’t sold 200 million books either. It always amazed me that JK Rowling could write ‘the Philosopher’s Stone’ in a busy Edinburgh café; I once visited the Elephant Café where Harry Potter came to life and I was astonished at the volume of noise and how dear Joanne managed to write the words that would change her life.

Personally I need silence to write; I’ve tried classical music in the background, but I found it annoying. As I find all noise annoying, when I have to let my brain function at its most creative. Fortunately I live in a very quiet part of the world and the whirring breathlessness of this laptop is bearable. How I look forward to the return of my PC at the weekend. So, if it is quiet that I need to let the words flow where do most of my ideas form?

It is out on the roads of Northamptonshire, not in a car, usually anyway, but from the padding of the streets and roads as I run. I never understand why people run with headphones, listening to music, although I suppose we all have our different ways of finding Zen. For me it is about getting out into the air and creating the flow of serotonin; of leaving all worries behind and pushing myself – and that’s true whether the run is easy or tough. Something happens in the fresh air, and it feels different from when I run than if I walk in the woods and the fields. My best ideas have always come either out on the road or in the shower after, as the water bounces off the top of my head or runs rivulets over me and into the plughole. In the peace, in the quiet, my brain ticks over and pulls random thoughts from my mind and from the creative gods of the unknown.

The act of running does two things: creates serotonin and helps me feel I’m alive. If I have a good run, I feel at my best; if I have a tough run I have overcome a hurdle. If, as it is so often, I just run then I still get the twin benefits, but the value is in what the experience gives me. Ideas, peace, direction, health and a place I know I can always retreat. I use running to help me overcome emotional pain by feeling physical pain. I run when I’m happy, I run when I’m sad and I run when it just has to be done. I can also talk myself out of a run with alarming ease. Mostly though, I just run. I keep it simple. I discipline myself in the same way with my writing; by writing at regular times, when my mind is most active I get the best out of myself. If there is writer’s block, then there is runner’s block and as there is neither I know I just have to get on with the ‘work’.

Yours breathlessly
Andy Gibney

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