Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing is like exercise

Yep, I've decided that writing is like exercise. But I love writing and I hate exercising, you say? Well, hold on, and let me explain.

So, when you are on pinterest, or see that magazine at the store, or your neighbor who just completed his/her tenth triathlon and you think, "wow, I wish I looked like that." We'll call that "inspiration." (This is correlated to getting an "idea for a book.")

There are a LOT of people who decide they want to "get in shape." A majority never take it past that--a decision or longing that never results in action. Some will go buy a couple of outfits, maybe a workout video, some hand weights, maybe even join a gym! We'll call this "baby steps." (This is correlated with writing a couple of notes, maybe even a few chapters, maybe even signing up for a writer's conference.)

But most of those people will go to the gym a few times and loose motivation. Or they'll do their videos once a week. Enough to appease their desire without really accomplishing anything substantial. This is the "dabbling stage." (You see where I'm going with this yet?)

BUT... there are those few people who are really, truly determined to make a change. To pursue their dream--muscles, skinnyliciousness, or writing and publishing a book. Those people put in the time, the effort, they push through exhaustion, sickness, stress, lack of time, boredom--you name it. And they start seeing results. Some are faster than others, and some take different routes. There are runners, weight lifters, triathletes, swimmers, yoga enthusiasts, etc. And of course there are the side decisions you have to make as well, to make the exercise more effective--eating healthy, getting enough sleep, etc. (Obviously, this is a comparison to not only sitting down and making yourself write--no matter what--it's also about revising, editing, finding CPs, a crit group, actually going to conferences and participating, etc.)

And guess what? What was hard at first, becomes easier. That class at the gym that kicked your butt becomes *gasp* kind of fun. Because you can hang with the teacher without feeling like you're going to pass out or have an aneurysm afterwards anymore. You start to think, "I can do this! I kind of rock!" And you can. And you do.


Yep, there's a but.

Sometimes, it's still hard. This is how I thought of this post. Yesterday, I was trying to work on my new idea, the one that has been flowing for days. And then, all of a sudden, yesterday I hit a wall. I was stuck. I stared at that screen and couldn't figure out what to do next. I thought about closing my laptop, doing something else. But I knew that was a surefire way to NOT fix the problem, to never finish the book. So I made myself keep writing. It was slow, it was painful, but I kept going. (See the exercise correlation again? Even if you are in good shape, there are days when it is just HARD to exercise. Like when I went for a 4 mile run with my mama yesterday, pushing Baby Girl in the jogging stroller. For some reason, running yesterday was super hard.) I forced out a page or two, and then my time was up until later that night. I thought about the problems I was facing all afternoon as I took care of the kids, made dinner, all the other stuff.

And then an idea hit me, a way to fix the problem. I went back a few chapters, added some scenes, and then changed the stuff that happened after to match. And suddenly it was flowing again, even faster than before. I had what I like to call a "writer's high." Those times when you are just bursting with happiness and excitement as you type as fast as your fingers will go. I've only had a runner's high two, maybe three times. But one in particular stands out--it was the longest run I'd ever done up to that point (10 miles) and the first few were so hard I almost didn't keep going. But then, I hit mile 8 and I suddenly had this burst of energy. I wanted to sprint, I felt that good. I grinned from ear to ear as I ran. Then I hit mile 9.5 and the high went bye-bye and I had to really push myself to finish the last mile.

But the point is this: there are going to be hard times. In fact, more often than not, it's going to be hard to exercise OR write/try to get published. But if you do it, if you put the time in and keep going, you will see results. And you might even get to experience those elusive highs every once in a while that make all the lows worth it.


Katie Dodge said...

Oh, those elusive highs! It's funny because just yesterday I had the same thoughts about pushing through a hard workout and pushing through a rut in my writing. Great post! :)

Cassie Mae said...

At least while writing you can eat cheesecake and not feel counterproductive right? Lol.

But so true! I hit a wall and stare at the blinking cursor FOREVER and I feel like chucking the computer across the room. But I know that won't solve anything either. :)

Ruth Josse said...

Great comparison! Sometimes I hate writing. A lot of the time I hate exercising. But I know the results from both are things I really want. Last year I started running and thought for sure it would eventually become easy. Well, it became easier but never easy. And some days were extra hard. But it was worth it for how I felt afterward. Same goes for writing. After the grueling fight it sometimes seems to be, it feels amazing.

Amie Borst said...

Oh I LOVE this post! Ironically these are two things that I'm working on right now....well....avoiding (if i'm being honest). I need to remind myself of my goals and stick to them - even pushing through the hard times!


DL Hammons said...

I think I must be one of those writers/exercisers who's in great shape and can run forever...but its all on a treadmill and I'm not really going anywhere! :)

Jennie Bailey said...

Great analogy! Isn't it weird how you can be running regularly and there are just those days when it's hard to push through? That being said, I'm sick AGAIN and haven't been to the track in three weeks because I'm coughing. But I was struck by that in January - one night when I was running, it was a struggle to get through ONE lap. Are you kidding me? Not one mile out of my three. Lap. Just bizarre. But I pushed through, much like we do with writing! I can't wait to be back out there pushing through some more (exercise)!!

Margo Berendsen said...

I love this analogy, even though it kind of makes me sad, because I'm not at the "serious workout" stage even though I should be....

Carolyn V said...

So true (for both the writing and the exercise). ;) Even when it gets easy, it can still be hard. Well said.

Anonymous said...

A post I really needed to hear today.

You're definitely a writing athlete Sara. You'll make it. So proud of you for pushing through!