There’s a lot of material out there suggesting that exercise benefits creativity. I don’t really want to tread over that material. From what I’ve seen, which is admittedly limited, most of it seems anecdotal. I haven’t seen significant studies that directly conclude creativity is boosted by exercise. Even if there are studies that say as much, I’m betting they’re geared toward improved cognitive function and not specific types of creative thought. I tend to take it as a generalized benefit and leave it at that.
Instead, I want to talk about how exercise fits into my writing and my work schedule.
I don’t write full time. I barely write part time. I’m a night owl and have a terrible time getting out of bed in the morning. Add in a young child, the regular requirements of family life, a full time job and the only time I really get to work is at night. My job can be mentally taxing and sitting around all day is oddly physically exhausting. It’s not uncommon for me to be completely wiped out by six or seven at night. Not enough to go to sleep, mind you, but more than enough to not want to do anything.
I am a creature of motivation. I don’t have that thing in my brain that says “just do it” and it allows me to go. I can’t sit down at my writing computer (which is also my entertainment machine, gaming system, and recording studio) and just write if being tired kills my motivation to do so. I will avoid it. I will do anything else to avoid writing. Stupid hour long video in my YouTube queue I’ve been avoiding because I don’t care enough to actually dedicate time to it? You bet I’ll watch that rather than work. My short circuit to this tendency is exercise.
I hate exercise. I really don’t like sweating or physical exertion. I particularly dislike doing it in room full of other people doing it. I’m overweight. Significantly. I’m out of shape. Probably even more so than I’m overweight. I’m slow. I’m sweaty. I’m self conscious about being slow and sweaty. I hate it. I hate it all so much.
… but the minute I get home after exercising I feel fantastic.
It’s a slog. I never, ever want to go, but I always feel the same when I’m done. I’m not tired or distracted or unhappy. There’s a lot of things I want to do, but lay down and binge watch a TV show is not on the list after I’m done exercising. I’m awake, engaged, and looking forward to getting some work done. The nights when I exercise always end in work unless I explicitly decide to do something else. The focus I have when working and my ability to move through tasks is significantly improved as well. It’s not just a matter of being motivated to work, but being motivated to work hard.
I don’t know if it impacts the quality of my work. I don’t think it matters. It significantly impacts the amount of work I do and that does matter. I hate exercising because of how hard it is. I love writing in spite of how hard it is. I’m happy to do the former when it helps me significantly with the latter. With any luck it’ll also lead to the happy side benefit of not being so overweight or out of shape or slow and sweaty. I will keep my expectations low in that regard, however.