I spent last week in Marin.
I would get up early in the morning and go for long, sweaty hikes.
The hills out there are brutal, and for that I was grateful. I needed those hikes to be hard. All I wanted to do was to wear myself OUT by 9am, so that I could sit still for the rest of the day.
If there’s one thing I’d like to change about the writing life, it’s the amount of time you spend sitting in a chair, losing all feeling in your lower extremities as your mind wrestles with some story problem or another.
Which reminds me, holy shit, Leslie Jones! Lady, I love you:
I mean, this:
I repeat: I love her. OK. Back to my original point. I'm not talking about Olympian-level training regimens. I'm talking about moving around. I'm talking about figuring out a way to not get bursitis from sitting in a damn chair for 15 hours a day. I'm talking about how to use your body to get some creative work DONE.
Leslie Jones understands; her athletic career is behind her, and now she's a comedian, which means she has to sit in a chair somewhere and work on jokes.
Most of us are sitting in chairs, trying to do our thing.
I’m in the middle of reading Get It Done. It’s full of advice on how to be more productive if you are a spaz creative like yours truly. One of her three essential daily habits is: give yourself 15 minutes a day to “deliberately daydream.” She writes:
A body in motion puts the mind in motion.
Here, she breaks it down for us. “The fact of the matter is that right now you’re trying to get some work done and you’re stuck. The trick is to give your logical, linear, left brain something interesting to do while your right brain gets to do its impulsive, elliptical, intuitive work. You want your hands to be busy so your mind can wander.
"Do some simple, repetitive motion for fifteen minutes a day, every day. This is not to get fit or to lose weight or to lower your blood pressure -- it’s to enhance your creativity and turn up the volume on your intuition.
"Find some exercise that you don’t mind doing - walking, running, swimming, doing calisthenics, dancing, jumping rope - and find time for it every single day.
"Notice that all these suggested daily activities are nonnarrative. There are no stories or even language involved in any of these activities. So that means no TV, no video games, no reading, no movies, no Internet. Just fifteen minutes of deliberate daydreaming.”
The value of getting out of our heads and into our bodies is that it helps us make decisions. Writing is all about making decisions, and scientists have discovered that decisions are not just a calculation, they're an emotional process.
For example, brain-damaged patients who can still think rationally but have lost the ability to process emotions can become pathologically indecisive. They may spend hours simply deciding what to wear.
The body truth goes ahead of the mind lie.
"When we dither over a decision, our intellect tries to gain the upper hand, shouting, You’d better be sure! Keep your options open! Have you considered the legal implications? and so on. Fortunately, our bodies patiently persist in telling the truth. All we have to do is listen."
"I had a conversation once with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, Gillian Lynne. Have you heard of her? Some have. She's a choreographer, and everybody knows her work. She did "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera." She's wonderful.
"Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said, "How did you get to be a dancer?" It was interesting. When she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the 1930s, wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn't concentrate; she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn't you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. It wasn't an available condition. People weren't aware they could have that.
"Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on this chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about the problems Gillian was having at school. Because she was disturbing people; her homework was always late; and so on, little kid of eight.
"In the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian, and said, "I've listened to all these things your mother's told me, I need to speak to her privately. Wait here. We'll be back; we won't be very long," and they went and left her.
"But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick; she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."
"I said, "What happened?" Gillian said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think." Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, jazz; they did modern; they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School; she became a soloist; she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School, founded the Gillian Lynne Dance Company, met Andrew Lloyd Webber.
"She's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, she's given pleasure to millions, and she's a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down."
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