Friday, March 21, 2014

Exercise Those Writing Muscles!

I’m almost 2/3 of the way through a Pilates Beginners' Challenge. And it’s crazy! Pilates is not for wimps. But, at the same time, it’s not as cardio and weight heavy as some workouts. Thus, it works well for me.

Anyway, I’ve learned some interesting things during this challenge. And I’ve discovered that I can apply those things to writing. So, I thought I’d share them with all of you.

  1. I’m stronger than I thought I was. Though I’ve had plenty of lie-on-the-floor-gasping moments and I’m-going-to-die times, I’ve done better with some of these workouts than I would have expected. And I wonder if the same is true of my writing. Sure, we tend to have an inflated opinion of our own writing, but we’re also constantly assaulted by self-doubt. Writing is not a profession full of self-confidence. But we’re probably capable of more than we think we are. I just bought a book called The 4 A.M. Breakthrough, which is full of innovative writing prompts, and I’m excited for it to get here so I can dig into styles and topics that are not normal for me. I’ve done ab workouts that hurt like crazy and leg exercises that made it hard to walk, but I’m surviving them. And I can survive new writing experiences. Because I just might be stronger than I think I am.
  2. Exercising is hard. I’m not very flexible, so stretching is difficult for me. Just about every exercise with this Pilates challenge hurts. But it’s necessary. And the more I do it, the better I become. The process can be hard, though. It’s difficult to stay focused through the pain and complete each workout. Writing is similar. It can be difficult to push through the tough spots in your manuscript, to finish that scene on time, and to sacrifice certain things for time to write. Writing is not easy. The question is whether or not it’s worth it.
  3. I can’t do everything. I usually can’t stretch as far as Cassey, my instructor, can. I’m successful if I stretch about half the distance she does. But that’s the thing about Pilates: you only go as far as you can. As long as you’re still feeling the effect of the move, you’re fine. Don’t try to do too much. In writing, we can try to stretch too far. Going a little beyond your comfort zone is good; stretching way beyond it can be harmful. So, in writing, work a little harder than you’re used to or do something you’re not used to. But don’t get so lost that your writing suffers as a result.
  4. Consistent practice results in progress. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the advice that you should write something every day. You can make your own decision on whether that’s right; I personally am horrible about writing every day. But the principle of consistency is important. With my Pilates, I do a workout Monday through Saturday, and I have a rest day on Sunday. So, I’m exercising every day except one. That consistency has already shown some results, which I’m ecstatic about. The more I practice, the stronger I get. The same is true with my writing. I’m a much better writer now than I used to be. The quality difference between Raiders’ Rise and the first book I wrote, with the One Year Adventure Novel, is monumental; even between my recent blog posts and my first few posts, I can see a difference. I’ve written way more in the last year than I did before, and I’ve learned a great deal about my craft. That practice is producing progress. It’s not enough to invest a little bit of work here and there; in order to succeed, you’ve got to work consistently. You decide how you can best do that. But I promise that it will feel amazing.
  5. Sometimes you just need a break. Though consistency is important, so is pacing yourself. Last week, I did a calf exercise that had me limping for days. I hurt so badly the next day, Friday, that I skipped Pilates. I didn’t do it on Saturday, either, and then my normal rest day was on Sunday. At first, I felt lazy for not working out. But the extra long rest turned out to be a good thing, and I came into this week’s fist workout refreshed. Sometimes we need rest as writers, too. Now, I am not saying you should stop every time it’s hard. Be judicious. But keep in mind that you can only go so far before you burn out. If you’re feeling so overwhelmed that you actually hate writing, maybe you need to take a step back. Do something else for a day or two (or longer, depending on your stress levels). Then you can come back to your writing excited for the possibilities.

So, there you go: writing lessons learned from Pilates. What kind of exercises do you like to do? And have you ever applied lessons from exercise to writing? Let me know in the comments below! I love talking to my readers!


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