by Randy Singer,
It dawned on me recently that I did not begin my writing career seventeen years ago when I started the manuscript for Directed Verdict, my first book. It actually began nearly ten years before that when, as a young attorney, I had fully developed plot lines kicking around in my head.
And it happened while I was running.
At the time, I was a young associate in the litigation section of a relatively large firm. I loved my job but it was a lot of hard work, grinding away on big cases, reviewing reams and reams of documents. It was a far cry from the exciting life of the television lawyers who get to try a major case every sixty minutes. To relieve stress, I would do a lot of running. And while I ran, I would think about my cases, or about other lawyer’s cases, or about hypothetical cases and how I would try them.
And so it was, that all of my big cases were tried not in inside a courtroom, but inside my head. While I ran, the real cases became more elaborate and the evidence developed just the way I wanted, with the other side’s primary witness crashing and burning under my cross-examination. In the fictional cases, I was still the hero, though sometimes I would lose at trial and have to pull it out on appeal. At the Supreme Court, of course.
Now, putting aside what this means in terms of a narcissistic disorder, I found it interesting that my best creative thinking took place while I was running. I was not only putting together entire plot lines for imaginary cases, but I would also generate some fairly creative ideas for my real ones.
Twenty-seven years later, I still have my most creative moments while running or while paddling my outrigger. Sermons get constructed (I am a pastor as well as a lawyer), cases get solved and plot twists get conceptualized. Many times I will come back sweating like crazy and jot down some notes on a wet piece of paper before I lose the thought. Sometimes, after I cool down, I realize the thoughts I had while running were a little too creative and wouldn’t actually work in the real world. But many times, the creative bursts from the run were just what I needed.
Turns out that there is physiological research to support this connection between the endorphins that we release while exercising and enhanced creativity.Here is a Psychology Today article written by Steven Kotler explaining the neurobiology of being in “flow”: Flow States and Creativity. The essence of it is that the endorphins shut down our inner critic (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, to be precise), allowing us to be more daring and creative, and change our brainwaves so we can “slip from thought to thought without internal resistance.” In the flow, we more easily combine novel information with old thoughts to create something spectacularly new.
I didn’t need Steve Kotler to tell me that it worked. Whenever I hit writer’s block, I would go for a run. When my sermon was not coming together, I would go out for a paddle. When a case is in transient, I might take a long walk. It didn’t always solve everything, but it always helped.
Maybe you don’t like to run. You can achieve the same benefits from walking. The key is to find something that you can do for at least thirty minutes to get your blood pumping but something that is not so strenuous that your mind can’t wander from the task at hand. And you need to do it alone. If your Cross-Training coach is chewing you out or your walking partner is chatting you up or your iTunes are blaring in your ears, this won’t work.
You must have time alone with your thoughts and your endorphins.
I’m actually a bit of a nut about this (as you can probably tell) and dictate large portions of my first draft while walking around the local golf course. Though this adds another step to the writing process, I find there is something about being outside and moving that brings an exponential increase in my productivity. Tip: take your phone along in case you need to do some quick research in the middle of a scene.
And have a pen and paper ready when you return from your run/bike/walk/paddle. The Muse is an athlete, and she makes a fabulous running partner.
Chasing the Muse by Randy Singer on @NovelRocket @litfuse #writing
How can exercise encourage creativity & impact your writing? Find out from Randy Singer!
The Muse is an athlete, and she makes a fabulous running partner.
What did the president know? And when did she know it?
For the members of SEAL Team Six, it was a rare mission ordered by the president, monitored in real time from the Situation Room. The Houthi rebels in Yemen had captured an American journalist and a member of the Saudi royal family. Their executions were scheduled for Easter Sunday. The SEAL team would break them out.
But when the mission results in spectacular failure, the finger-pointing goes all the way to the top.
Did the president play political games with the lives of U.S. service members?
Paige Chambers, a determined young lawyer, has a very personal reason for wanting to know the answer. The case she files will polarize the nation and test the resiliency of the Constitution. The stakes are huge, the alliances shaky, and she will be left to wonder if the saying on the Supreme Court building still holds true.
Equal justice under law.
It makes a nice motto. But will it work when one of the most powerful people on the planet is also a defendant?
Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers, including his Christy award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict,and ECPA’s 2015 Christian Book Award winner for fiction, The Advocate. He was also named a finalist, along with John Grisham and Michael Connelly, for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the American Bar Association and the University of Alabama Law School.
In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as a teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his “Jekyll and Hyde thing” — part lawyer, part pastor. He also serves as Attorney in Residence and Director of the Singer Civil Litigation Practicum at Regent Law School.
He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two adult children. Visit his website at www.randysinger.net.