Fall Update

My son started school the day after Labor Day. It was a red-letter day for him and for me. He went off to school and I…went for a run in the park.

After I ran and showered and ate I finally sat down at my desk.

I wrote in my journal.

I wrote on my computer.

Since then I’ve been trying to figure out how to do even more writing. I’d have more time to write if I didn’t exercise every day, but it turns out, now that I have the freedom to do it, I really want to exercise. I run, swim, or do yoga just about every day my son is in school.

When I exercise regularly, I have more energy to write, and I can stay up a little later and get a little done after my son goes to bed.

When I think back to medical school, exercise is what got me through. Everyone did something besides study medicine—some of my classmates cooked gourmet meals, some played video games, and some, like me, exercised. It was a respite from the grind and it always recharged me.

So my new writing life includes daily exercise. Sometimes it gives me thinking time (like when I run) and sometimes it gives me the chance to “not think,” if you know what I mean (like when I’m doing Wheel in yoga class,) but it always gives me energy and makes me feel more like myself.

When I’m most authentic, the words I write are authentic, too. Not necessarily true, as I’ve started back on my fiction, but true to me.

Once again I’ve had to give up on being the person I want to be to be the person I am. I’d love to be someone who writes for six hours at a time, stopping only when it’s time to pick up my son from school, but that’s not me (at least not now.)

Now I’m someone who sits down to write for a couple of hours (or even one) most days, after getting dinner organized and going for a run.

That’s a person I can live with.

Who are you as a writer and what to do you need in order to sit down at your desk?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. I’m hosting a One Day Writing Retreat on October 17th, in Nashua, NH. If you’d like some time to work on your writing project in a comfortable setting with like-minded individuals (ie, other writers!) please join us. For more information, click here.

19 thoughts on “Fall Update

  1. Love this post! Lately I’ve been doing most of my writing — the crucial first part of planning out a new story or chapter — while doing my morning exercise. Getting away from my computer and from all the distractions of home helps more than staring at that blank page. It’s easier to make myself think through exactly what I want to write, work out the logical problems, think through the characters’ motivations, etc. Usually by the time I get home an hour later, I have most of it written in my head. Even better, it actually gets me out the door to exercise, which I will otherwise avoid like the plague. If instead of saying, “I really should exercise,” I instead tell myself, “Now I get me-time to think about my story,” I actually look forward to getting out there!

    • Hi Joy Pixley,
      How do you remember everything you’ve written in your head? That’s my problem. I have to stop running to make a note or to record an audio clip on my phone, because I’m pretty sure I won’t remember what I’ve been thinking about. And I know that because of the many times I’ve thought, Oh I’ll definitely remember that! And then I get back to my desk and–it’s gone!

      Good for you for figuring out a way to get your writing and your exercise done!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your strategy with us.


  2. Hi Diane. I am the complete opposite: I get so lost in writing that I can sit at the computer for hours on end. I have to make myself begin the day with exercise to ensure I do not freeze in the sitting position (with hands on keyboard). Always a pleasure to read you.

    • Hi helmontpetit,
      That sounds like a great day to me: Start the day with exercise and then write, write, write! That’ll be me, one day! 🙂

      Thanks for your kind words and for reading!


    • Hi yashitripathi11,
      Reading is a great way to get inspired to write again. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  3. Great post Diane. The very first thing is to walk Cody, our black lab, that exercise gets the brain cells working…somewhat. And now that Autumn has blown in with a cool morning breeze, my next task is to build a small fire in the fire pit on the deck where I sit out with Cody and think. I need that hour or so of quiet “think” time. I have my coffee and the small fire blazing away. It’s cool and I can mull over writing issues, plot, characters, whatever, and then I’m off to the key board. I try to write at least a few hours in the morning and if it’s going well I keep on with it. I try to take Hemingway’s advice and that is to stop when you have more to say and you’ll have a good starting place the next day. Hey, it works for me. 🙂

    • Hi Paul,
      It’s great to read how other people manage their writing days. The walk with Cody and the fireside coffee and thinking time sounds heavenly!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. I love your post! Honestly, I think my writing flows much better when I am also exercising, much like you. I also think what Paula said above is so true- writers need ‘me’ time to get the brain going!

    • Hi Tara,
      I do feel I’m more efficient and productive at my writing when I’m exercising regularly. Thinking time is really important, too. I still do most of my thinking while I’m doing other things, but one of these days I’ll build strictly thinking time into my schedule.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  5. I love this. I have been writing in journals for years but only a couple of years have I been writing for others to see. I have been in school for five years now and with the help of some of my professors, got into the habit of exercise. Like you, I wish that I could sit at my computer and just let loose for hours but my life is too busy for that. I exercise for my health and to feel good but honestly, on the days that I exercise, I get very tired and need a nap. I am not sure if it’s the exercise that keeps me going but I know the naps are what keep me sane. On the days that I can’t take a 30 minute snooze, I find myself lashing out when I shouldn’t. Writing is just another way that I get my thoughts and feelings out but I find I don’t want to be bothered in the middle of my writing if I haven’t had a nap. Wow, you inspired me to write more than I thought I was going too! Thank you for this!

    • Hi Kelly,
      When I was in school I napped a lot! There were a row of comfy chairs past the stacks when I was in med school, and I’d sit there and lean my head against my watch, which I set to alarm in 20 minutes. I’d have to lie with my ear against it or I wouldn’t wake up!

      I find I can stay up a little later in the evening on the days I exercise than I can when I don’t. I mean, stay up and actually be able to think and write and absorb rather than just clean the kitchen or fold laundry.

      Good luck with school and exercise–and writing!!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  6. I have a chaotic life, and too much on my plate right now to be any of that. I work full time and a research student in the evening. Then there are so many domestic chores with a cancer patient wife and a son. So, I write only when my mind compels me, I have no particular routine. Therefore, I envy those who have order in their various enterprises. 😦

    • Hi Bilal Khan,
      There have been times when I’ve had no time to write, and it can be so frustrating to have absolutely no time to call your own. I’m sorry you are in the midst of such a time. I hope things change for you soon and, in the meantime, you take good care of yourself so when you do have time, you will also have the energy to write (and do all the other things you can’t do right now.)


  7. I have to exercise every day too and I thought it was an either or thing with writing due to limited free time. But, I started a blog and I post three days a week and, due to the deadlines, I find myself writing every day. I work out in the early mornings, and write in the evenings. It’s turned out to be a lovely schedule.

  8. Hi Molly B and Me,
    That does sound like a great schedule! I need to get my writing done earlier rather than later, so I try to leave mindless chores for the evening. I’m a morning person and the evenings are not my ideal writing time. I wish it was different but I’ve accepted that it’s not. 🙂

    Thanks for letting us in on your strategy for getting your writing (and your exercise) done.


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