Writers & Their Bodies

This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP {Man In Progress}. After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life {my physical well-being, my writing career, and my romantic relationships}. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one we inevitably have to improve the other.

Writers are all about the mind. What the mind can imagine, what it can break down, what it can create, what it can destroy, what it can solve, what it complicates, what it can reveal, what it can conceal, what it can teach, and what it can learn.

I think writers are also more in tuned with their emotions and spiritual sensibilities because our work requires that we can understand our emotions and relies a lot on our intuition. For instance, how can we write about heartbreak if we haven’t experienced the painful feeling for ourselves? Or:  How do we know when to end a chapter we have written, unless we use our gut instinct to know for sure when the time is right?

Yes, writers are experts at the fuzzy, out there, intangible stuff of life. Although that’s a wonderful thing, sometimes we get a little too caught up in it.  After all, there is a lot more to us then the psychological and metaphysical parts of ourselves.

What is that? You may be asking.

Well, why don’t you take a look under the computer, below the desk. See that form stretched out below you? The one that isn’t moving? You see it?

Yeah. That’s your body, and if you are writer like me, chances are you’ve been ignoring it.


But why should writers pay attention to their bodies, anyway? Besides, we know that what’s inside of a person is far more important than what’s on the outside. We know not to have unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. Writers don’t deal in superficiality, we cherish what’s deep underneath the skin. We love theories and abstract emotions like love and jealousy and passion. We spend our time creating fictional worlds were a human body can potentially do so much more than it can do in reality, so why bother spending time with something that has so many limits? Our mind, on the other hand, is unlimited. What can a little ol’ body do?

We’ve spent years putting ourselves in the right category. We’re artists. We are mind and intuition people. We’re deep and complex. We don’t belong to the body and diet crowd. These people are obviously obsessed with their looks, they’re desperate for approval and are focused on their body for purely superficial reasons. We, on the other hand, have nothing to prove to anyone (smug), we’re not here to impress anyone (smug), and we definitely do not have any desire to feed our ego or pride by shoving our championship trophy down people’s throats and proclaim that we are the best athlete there ever was (smug, smug, smug!). So what a relief that I have none of those motivations for dealing with my body. Too bad there aren’t any other motivations, right? Right?

Okay, maybe the above is not representative of all writers, but I personally have had these (mistaken) biases against physical activity all my life.

See, when I was a kid, physical activity was presented to me under three umbrellas:  competition, fitness, and body image. So, you either did something physical because A. You wanted to win, B. You wanted to get healthy, or C. You wanted to look good.

I didn’t care much for sports competitions. Maybe its my emphatic nature, but I think it’s kind of mean to make someone else feel like a loser simply because they aren’t as physically fit as you.

And although “getting healthy” seems like a great motivator, it just isn’t. It’s too vague. It’s too parental. It’s too “you better do it or else.” When you are given this motivation for physical activity, the kid in you has to ask “but why?” and the parent comes back at you with “because it’s good for you.” Then you ask again: “but why?” Then the “parent” comes back with statistics and tells you about all the diseases you are going to get if you don’t exercise. You are told a story about Jim and how he got Diabetes because he never ran, and so they cut off his toes. Or they throw a hundred pounds of lard into a trashcan and say “this is how much fat you eat on a daily basis!” Or they give you words like “cholesterol” and “nutrition” and “omegas” and “alphas” and “deltas” and “calories” and “multivitamins” and “energy drinks” and “protein shakes” and “boosters” and “roosters” and “coosters” (and that last one sounds like dirty word, hehe.) and “immune system” and “electrolytes” and “smulectrolytes” and “snosberries” and “snosberries!  What’s a snosberry?”–anyway, you get the point. It’s all boring and overwhelming and confusing and you just feel like rebelling against it all because it’s so… square! Pardon me for using 1950’s terminology but it really is.

Then we come to the “I wanna look good,” motivator. I used to think that “looking good” would motivate me to be more physical, but it never did. You wanna know why? Because I’m a writer. Being great at what I do does not require me to LOOK GOOD. Because no one SEES ME. Not only that, but it is even rarer that they should see me NAKED. So I really don’t value my worth according to how I look on the OUTSIDE, and I think writers often run into this little supposed motivator and scoff:  “Please, I don’t need to hide behind my looks, because I can turn a phrase like it’s nobody’s biz-ness!”

As you can see, all this left me with no real motivation to do any physical activity.

But then I discovered that I needed to find a motivation for doing physical activity that had nothing to do with the traditional A, B, and Cs.

I had to give myself a reason to be more physical. I had to give myself a purpose, with a tangible result that I would feel right away. That is why I have decided to do more physical activity for the sole purpose of making me feel good.

Ok. That sounds simple. It is. Which makes me kind of mad that I wasn’t taught this when I was a kid. I wish someone would have just said: “Do sports for the purpose of making you feel good!” That would totally make sense to me as a kid and then I wouldn’t have stopped playing Little League after one humiliating year of losing to every other team in the league.

In conclusion, I am going to work on my physical well-being not because it is good for me, not because it will make me look better, not because it’ll prove that I am better than you, and not even because I’m going to have fun doing it–but for the purpose of making me feel good.

My first step will be running a 5k in December, with the goal of eventually running a full marathon some time in the near future.

I’ve already signed up for the marathon and started training, and boy do I feel good.

And you know us writers. We’re all about our feelings.

much “wholly crap did I just pay to run?”

Ollin

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18 comments on “Writers & Their Bodies

  1. Lovely and inspirational AS EVER.

    My fav line was “I wish someone would have just said: “Do sports for the purpose of making you feel good!”

    Can’t beat that, nope. Gotta love it!

    I agree; looking after our bodies is not a testimony of trying to look great (though I love to look great too!). It is a way of showing gratitude toward what we have been given. The Egyptians liken Bodies to Temples. I second that.

    Thanks for reminding us this, Ollin.

    Much Love,
    BrownEyed

    • Ollin says:

      That’s a nice thought, my body is a temple. But I think we can just start off by acknowledging that its there and we need to take it out for some activity once in a while.

  2. Oh dear Lord. Marathon? Good luck.

    I agree, we neglect our body, and I agree with the reasons too. I don’t think I’ll run a marathon any time soon because I don’t care. No one sees me, and running doesn’t make me happy. So I’ll just eat junk – it makes me happy.

    • Ollin says:

      I totally understand. As you can see, I agree with you that writers have little motivation to do any physical activity. Whatever works for you!🙂

  3. This post is really an eye-opener.

  4. Agatha82 says:

    I walk for miles sometimes (8 miles one day) because it relaxes me and helps me think about things. Good luck on the 5K, did that once. Long ago, I wanted to run a marathon, and started training my longest running distance was half a marathon, but sadly, I had to stop due to a foot problem, so now, I walk, and it’s just as much fun🙂

  5. That was fabulous Ollin!
    I too need some work on the physical end. I walk everywhere so I have the cardio thing going already, but I can barely lift my own arms since I took up writing and that is a problem!
    I also really need to work on the diet thing. I often lie to myself about what I eat because my weight is not an issue… but whoa!
    I applaud your drive! Way to go on the running. I’m going to finally get around to replacing the set of hand weights I lost a few years ago and get to work!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. […] # 1: Graciousness: Creative people practise graciousness in every walk of life. I read Ollin’s post today about how writers ignore their bodies. Instantly, I remembered how Ancient Egyptians […]

  7. jannatwrites says:

    Wow, good for you! I need some work too…the only part of my body with any strength are my fingers (from all of this typing.)

    It’s funny you post this now, because I just showed my husband all of these exercises I pulled out of my Health magazine that I want him to help me do because I’m getting waaaay too “squishy”. Apparently I’m not doing it tonight though, because I’m on the computer🙂

    Crossing my fingers those exercises motivate me because the only way I’m running is if something scary is chasing me🙂

    Good luck on your training!

  8. Tammy McLeod says:

    I’m with brown-eyed. Liken your body to a temple. The other thing that is really helpful is keeping a journal. Since you’re a writer, scratch out a few lines about how you’re feeling throughout the day and what you ate or what exercise you did.
    http://agrigirl.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/keeping-a-food-journal-weight-loss/

  9. […] my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, one of those aspects was my physical well-being.  My first goal was to run my first 5k on December 11. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and […]

  10. […] Maybe it’s because you need to find peace or feel empowered. Or maybe you need to go for a run. Maybe you need to take a break from your work, or maybe you need to reconnect with friends and […]

  11. […] my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, one of those aspects was my physical well-being.  My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to […]

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