Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Get My Best Ideas On the Treadmill

For some people, inspiration hits them in dreams or while meditating or during conversation. For me, it often hits at the gym. Exercise triggers something and the neurons start firing. No doubt somebody somewhere has studied this. Maybe it's related to endorphins. I started exercising as a way to address depression, but it's proven a useful tool for conquering writer's block and collecting ideas for new stories.

When I get on the cardio machine, I start thinking about my story. I may even focus on a scene or element that's giving me trouble. But I don't actively try to solve the problem. I just contemplate that section, holding it in my brain, sometimes telling myself the story. When things start clicking, I grab my ipod and text myself.

The ideas that hit at the gym don't always pan out. Like dreams, they might not make much sense later. "Why did I think a giant purple hippo would work here?" I may find myself wondering. But even when that happens, the process seems to shake something loose and open the door for the right idea to find its way in.

Confession time - I don't actually go on the treadmill itself at the gym. I prefer the eliptical machine. Maybe its the result of too many sitcoms where some poor shlub can't keep up with the machine and they slide all over the floor instead. Or maybe I developed an aversion when I learned that the treadmill was developed in Victorian England as a punishment for prisoners, part of the "hard labor" sentences - 6 hours a day on a hideous version of a giant gerbil wheel, designed to force prisoners to lift their legs extra high. If they didn't, and couldn't keep up with the machine, the result could be ugly - a lot uglier than any of those sitcoms. I believe Oscar Wilde spent his prison time on the treadmill. Maybe some of his stories were born there. But I wouldn't recommend 6 hours a day. I think I'll stick with my 30 minute workout.

Where and when does inspiration hit you?

For a little more background on treadmills, check out


  1. Thanks. I was stunned by the scene in Wilde where they showed the treadmill in action. Chilling. I appreciate the link.

  2. I didn't know about Oscar on the treadmill. I hope to forget that as I do so many things... My sister runs on the treadmill when it's too hot or cold or wet outdoors, for hours sometimes. As for me, I get my ideas in dreams, in the shower, crossing the street, when I'm driving, when I'm writing something else ... any time any place. I was writing a new poem in my head one day on my way to the gym in the car and ended up at Target, not knowing where I was supposed to be. Good thing I had my swim bag on the front seat or I'd have been inside Target before I figured it out!


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