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Writing rejuvenates the brain as much as pumping iron rejuvenates the body

Health experts say that pumping iron – lifting weights – is good for you. So is pumping words, I hasten to add. I pump them both as part of my ongoing regime.

At 86, I have become fanatic about staying alive. I don’t mean just breathing. I mean trying to make each day a good one and the next one marginally better… or at least only marginally worse. Use it or lose it. Devote part of each day to staying healthy – both mentally and physically. Let me share my day with you, particularly the role that writing plays.

I warm up each day, sometimes while it’s still dark, with mental gymnastics. A half hour or so of online Trivia Crack in eight languages (some of which I actually know) against people (and, I suspect, robots) around the world. Then I shift to puzzles. Word puzzles, mainly crosswords and Jumble. Number puzzles like Sudoku, Kenken and Numbrix. Online puzzles like Free Cell and Spider.

For 15 years, regardless of mood, my wife Laurel and I would hit the gym at least three days a week to ride stationary bikes, climb on elliptical trainers, and pump iron – arms, legs, back, belly, and bottom. Because COVID-19 has interrupted our gym routine, we now take daily two-mile walks around nearby Lake Evans, while communing with noisy ducks, geese, egrets, and pelicans.

Then comes writing. Each day, without fail. Usually in the late morning or early afternoon. Occasionally at night. No excuses.

I write devoutly, for two reasons. I enjoy writing. And it helps me. Writing rejuvenates the brain as much as pumping iron rejuvenates the body.

That’s fine, Carlos, but what if I’m not in the mood? Do you have any tricks to get yourself to the computer? Let me share a few.

Trick No. 1: Always have multiple writing projects. That way, when you sit down at the computer, odds are that at least one of them will strike your fancy.

Trick No. 2: On my desk rests a set of file folders, each containing a different writing project. A folder for my current novel. A folder for my book-in-progress on diversity and speech. One with half-done, under-done, and over-done poetry. A folder of in-process essays. Upcoming lectures or diversity workshops. My monthly column for the national ezine, American Diversity Report.

As I think of ideas, I jot them down and stick them in the appropriate folder. Same destination for clippings and relevant articles I run across. So when it’s time to work on that project, I’m likely to find material to get me rolling.

Trick No. 3: Each night I make a list of the next day’s writing possibilities and asterisk top priority items. I don’t expect to get to everything on the list, but at least it reminds me of what I was thinking the day before.

Trick No. 4: Occasionally I stop writing in mid-sentence. This gives me a running start the next day.

Some of these gimmicks may seem bizarre. They may not be the most efficient way to be productive. Certainly not the most focused way for getting things published.

My response: So what? Publishing isn’t my main goal. If my stuff gets published – and it still does – well and good. But I’ve got bigger fish to fry. It’s called living well. And, at my age, waking up the next day as a marginally improved version of Carlos Cortés provides plenty of inspiration for my daily writing exercise, my pumping words.

By CARLOS CORTÉS Contributing columnist PUBLISHED on https://www.pe.com/2021/02/06/writing-rejuvenates-the-brain-as-much-as-pumping-iron-rejuvenates-the-body/ February 6, 2021

Carlos Cortés is professor emeritus of history at UC Riverside, author of a memoir, Rose Hill: An Intermarriage before Its Time, and a book of poetry, Fourth Quarter: Reflections of a Cranky Old Man.