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By: Jennifer Davis

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Monday, 23-Sep-2013 22:05 Email | Share | Bookmark
How Pedaling Your Bike Is Actually Pedaling Your Mind

The freelancer can choose from a mere umpty-triillon unusual Internet suggestions on how to stay healthy while working at home: wear Yoga Toes on your hands, drink smoothies made of blended artichoke hearts and pages from pocket dictionaries, only drink coffee from those famed beans that have been pooped out by civet cats. (Anybody ever try those? Still married?) And of course there are suggestions from the minds of middlebrow moderates, advocates of the standard soporific: eat sensibly and get good exercise.

But neither the fringe nor the fair-to-middlings catch the bottled lightning of exercising for the creative spark. I not talking about how 10 downward dogs a day might keep you in good enough shape to type another 200 words on your to-do list for 2015. I talking about how exercising can open your skull so that ideas pour directly in, and what was a stone soup becomes nourishment for your noodle, and spicily stirred.

Here my recipe: have a writing problem. If you a home-based knitter, you have knitting problems. If you a coder, you have coding problems. The world is cruel that way. So, my writing problems are often of this nature: There are no words to say what I have to say. I doomed! (Cue sound of grown man bleating like a wounded lamb.) My most recent problems were two: I had no angle on a magazine article I writing, because the base material was abstruse, and I couldn find a way in. The second was that I was stuck in a scene of the novel I was writing, and it was a scene needful of an narrative explosion.

I took my standard approach to solving this problem: I found some dust on the rear of my monitor, and I blew it off. I went in the house and ate a handful of peanuts. I checked Google News to see if Newt Gingrich was advocating arming grandmothers with hand grenades so they are safe while shopping. Surprisingly, my writing problems weren solved. But then I did something that has worked so many times before, and because I have banana peels where rational thought should be, something I always forget: I went bicycling.

But I didn go bicycling to furiously pedal while I furiously considered my writing problem. You see, I already done that while I was working with dust, peanuts and Newt grenades. Professorial braniacs have discovered that when you prime the pump of the mind, putting some pressure on that extraordinary neuronal glob within your noggin, it will seem to work out the primed problems on its own, without your direct intervention. In fact, in my case, it always better to stay out of the way.

Cut to bike-while I was moving merrily along the Santa Cruz coast, thinking that it so wonderful how climate change has me in shorts and a t-shirt in February and wondering if that means the next Ice Age will start in June, my brain sent me an instant message: problems solved. In succession, I heard in my brain the full, word-for-word title of the magazine article I wanted to write, and that title gave me the angle into the material. Next, the solution to my slagging scene in the novel, complete with several phrases I could use verbatim and a full sentence that set the scene full stage. Business writing problem solved, pleasure writing problem solved. And I did not crash.

But I did marvel. It occurred to me again, duh, that if you have your clammy hands around the neck of your mind while trying to extract a concept confession, relaxing your hands will let the confession come out. This has happened to me many, many times, often while biking, sometimes while hiking, and once in a while while picking nits off of the floor. (Note: you can buy bags of nits at the Nit Store if you don have any around the house.) Maybe you can do it golfing, shooting skeet, or popping your head back and forth over the neighbor fence to see if there any sunbathing going on.

So, whatever the cognitive mechanism by which this works, it does work. So whether you are avidly exercising so that you be a bite of buff cake for your sweetheart, or you find the whole notion of working up a sweat too much work, consider that it actually a way to receive useful gifts from the cosmos. The cosmos is a giver of gifts-just move into a position to catch them.

Tom Bentley lives in the hinterlands of Watsonville, California, surrounded by strawberry fields and the occasional Airstream. He has run a writing and editing business out of his house for more than ten years, has published many freelance pieces, and was the 1999 winner of the National Steinbeck Center's short story contest. He has won three Traveler's Tales Solas awards, and recently published a collection of short stories.

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