Friday, February 18, 2022

Walking the Line, by Josh Stallings

 Q: Life: Sitting around all day isn’t good for us – we all know that. Sitting around all day (writing) is what we authors are expected to do. How do you find a healthy balance so that your body is able to sustain the work your mind needs to undertake? And what are you up to in 2022 that this will help you achieve?

A: I have said, “Writing problems are solved with a keyboard in my hand.” Buuut, that’s not true, part of my job is thinking. I often wake from a dream and scribble down a solution, (pro tip, Fisher Space Pens are great for writing upside down.) While walking snatches of dialogue or plot ideas bubble up, I record on my phone. Regardless of my dictation method if I don’t type these up relatively quickly my brain figures I’m not interested and turns its attention away from my writing and onto more important things, like what’s for lunch.

Walking is proven to help the creative mind.      

In a 2014 study Stanford University researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person's creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.

A person walking indoors – on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall – or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down, one of the experiments found. The study also found that creative juices continued to flow even when a person sat back down shortly after a walk.

I originally read this study seven years ago. I believe it to be true. And yet… 

I have spent most of my adult life in rooms of one kind or another either editing film or writing. In the early days, film was a physical job. I grabbed metal reels with 1000 ft of 35mm film on them off a rack and fed them onto a Moviola or Kem and then hand rewound them, 30 or 40 times a day. Running six tracks of 35mm sound through a synchronizer got my heart pounding. 

But that was before non-linear editing made me trade in my grease-pencil and razor-blade for a keyboard and mouse. Since that time I have tried and failed to find ways to accomplish  exercise and meet deadlines. When working in the CNN Hollywood building, I tried marching up and down all fourteen floors twice a day. That usually lasted a day and then the studio needed a cut FAST and I strapped into my chair and got it done. This makes me sound like I have a great work ethic, I may or may not but the truth is, I have failed to maintain an exercise routine because I am ultimately more interested in solving creative problems than moving my body. Even though I know moving helps solve them. 

The solution to this problem came in October 2017. It arrived in a fuzzy form called Buster. He is a terrier, at this moment he is sleeping on the day bed in my office. Every day at ten am he gets me out of my chair to take him for a long hike or walk. He does this again at three pm. He is a terrier, this need repeating for the terrier deprived out there. If he doesn’t get enough exercise and the mental stimulation that only sniffing the forest will deliver, he will find other ways to entertain himself. Destructive ways. 

Buster has taught me, it takes less time to go for a nice long walk than it would to clean up the consequences of not going for a walk. 

A few months ago Ernie the Adventure Poodle joined our tribe. Buster has taught him to rock climb and scrabble up mountains. Unlike Buster, Ernie is always happily surprised we are going on yet another walk, in that regard he is an easy going lad. We are all lucky Buster remains a task master.

As for 2022, I have a new book out on submission and I’m in the midst of two new manuscripts. To finish them this year I’ll need all the pep Buster can beat into me.


Susan C Shea said...

The problem I have with all the darling Busters is it's not just at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., it's at 12 a.m. in the pouring rain and 6 a.m. in the close to freezing pre-dawn! But you're right. A firm commitment with consequences if you don't obey is a great motivator.

Josh Stallings said...

I didn’t add the 6am quick pee walk, while coffee I’d brewing. Then a quick 8pm quick walk. I do love living in a forest, I enjoy seeing dawn. Think I’m have to do is when we get home I go right to writing, no mucking about. Buster was chewing on a dryer ball tonight, I said, “that’s on me, I apparently left that where he could get it.” Unless he’s grown a secrets opposable thumb.