A Novel Exercise

By Mark Alpert

I got on the bike today, searching for inspiration. Hoping to stumble upon some exciting ideas that’ll accelerate the plot of the novel I’m outlining.

The temperature was in the low 80s, which isn’t bad for NYC at this time of year. I headed for the bike path in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, which runs along the eastern bank of the Hudson River.

I saw a few awesome sights: a big freighter lolling in the current; a hundred cairns crowding the shore like lost souls; the gray GWB outlined against the Palisades.

I passed eight cyclists. Two faster cyclists passed me.

I sweated. A lot.

But I found no inspiration. No ideas for new characters or scenes.

Was I disappointed? Not really. Sooner or later I’ll think of something good.

Does anyone else out there look for inspiration while exercising?

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About Mark Alpert

Contributing editor at Scientific American and author of science thrillers: Final Theory (2008), The Omega Theory (2011), Extinction (2013), The Furies (2014), The Six (2015), The Orion Plan (2016), The Siege (2016), and The Silence (2017). His latest thriller, The Coming Storm (St. Martin's Press, 2019), is a cautionary tale about climate change, genetic engineering, and Donald Trump. His website: www.markalpert.com

10 thoughts on “A Novel Exercise

  1. Going for long walks is what usually helps me. It doesn’t work all the time, but some of the time.

  2. I do get story ideas when I exercise. When I come across something unusual, I make up a story about how it got there. The woman’s floral dress in the middle of the road, could it be a male bank robber’s disguise he ditched while escaping? Then there was the pre-dawn scream that came from an empty field (Lordy, I hope that was a bobcat and not a person), the deer that took a supernatural leap across the entire width of the road, the bathtub in the ditch, the coiled rope next to the tennis shoe . . .

  3. You betcha. Swimming is my thing for this. And Bobbing. Something about being immersed in water. Something primal. Ideas aplenty.

    P.S. I once swam around Manhattan and did a little backstroke there just past the GW Bridge. And got some great ideas!

  4. Running and walking. Inspiration/ideas await. Just got to carry an index card (walking) or get to an index card fast upon finishing (running), ’cause those ideas can dry away with the sweat.

  5. I workout with a partner most days, so I’m focused on what we’re doing. But there’s nothing like a walk outdoors with my dog to kick things loose if I’m stuck in my work.

  6. Running outdoors better than the treadmill, although both seem to get the blood moving in my brain. Even working out in the gym is good – I think I’m so bored with the routine that my mind starts inventing stories just to keep awake.

    When I’m outdoors I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts and they spark a lot of ideas. The only problem is trying to remember everything so I can write ’em down when I get home.

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