Ah, writer’s block. Every writer has encountered it. There are hundreds of tips and tricks out there on the interwebs to help you battle writer’s block. Today, I am just going to talk about one of those things.
Now before you roll your eyes at me and click the back button. Let’s talk about the science that supports this claim.
Yes, you read that right. We’re turning scientific for this post.
Walking is the best cure for writer’s block for two reasons: Dopamine and Daydreaming
Let’s start with Dopamine.
Commonly known as the ‘feel-good hormone’, dopamine is released when partaking in a number of activities such as exercise or joyful activities. But how would the feel-good hormone help increase creativity?
Well, this is where things begin to get interesting.
While the workings of the creative brain are still largely a mystery to science, studies show that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is less active when we are being creative. This is the part of our brain that we use for everyday activities.
In comparison, the medial prefrontal cortex sees an increase in activity. This is the part of the brain responsible for learning things such as association, context, events and emotional responses.
And guess what? The medial prefrontal cortex gets increasingly active when it’s fed dopamine.
That means it’s in a better position to pump out more creative ideas when we are exercising!
Now, there are thousands of everyday tasks that increase our production of dopamine, so why am I suggesting walking?
This is where daydremaing enters the equasion.
When we writers get fixated on a problem in our story, we focus our attention and energy on finding the solution to that problem. Perhaps you have spotted a plothole or maybe, your characters are just feeling a bit flat. Whatever issue you are facing in your writing, your brain is working overtime trying to solve it.
Trouble is, when we become so fixated, we often re-think the same useless idea over and over again. It isn’t until we take ourselves out of that situation and allow our minds to wonder that we are able to tap into our subconscious thoughts.
And walking is one of the best ways to do this. It removes you from your writing space and provides you with endless distractions (pretty flowers, passersby, spooky houses, etc)
Things got pretty sciency back there, so let’s switch things up and do some visualisation.
I want you to imagine you are leading a group of people trying to solve a puzzle.
If you have ever worked with a group of people on a single task you will know that there is usually 1 person who always holds back their thoughts and ideas.
In this scenario, this person is your subconscious mind.
The group spends hours trying to figure out how to solve this puzzle, to no avail. You stop for a lunch break and begin talking to one of the more quiet people in your team. After a while, they tell you their idea for solving the puzzle. That’s right. They’ve had the answer all this time.
“Why didn’t you speak up in there?” you ask.
“I would have but you seemed really busy.”
We may not realise it, but when we focus on a problem in your writing our subconscious mind is actually working to solve the problem, too. You’re just often too preoccupied to listen.
How many times has the name of an actor, character, film or song just fallen out of your head? You feel it on the tip of your tongue. You know you know it. You just can’t access it.
It isn’t until you become distracted by something else that the name finally comes back to you.
The exact same thing happens with our ideas. They are there. Waiting in our subconscious. Just waiting for us to go for a walk.
That’s why it’s important to take a step back and allow ourselves to daydream. So go for a walk. Get those dopamine hormones coursing through that brain of yours and let your mind wander on a relaxing stroll.