Writing and Working Out

Woking out vs WritingThere are several similarities between writing and working out.  The two most relevant for me are:

  1. Both are a painful process, by and large
  2. Both reward you with a wonderful feeling when you are finished

Let’s look at each of the foregoing.

The Pain

When I say working out is painful, I don’t mean that it literally causes you pain (unless you haven’t warmed up, your form is incorrect, or you have previous injuries).  I refer to the fact that moving your body through a sequence of exercises that requires effort leaves you fatigued and out of breath.  I find this unpleasant.  I really do not look forward to a cardio session which I know will leave me gasping, lungs clawing for air.  Fun stuff.  Your mileage may vary.

Regarding writing. how many blog posts have I read about staring at a blank screen with a blinking cursor mocking you.  Many.  And they all highlight the pain of being creative.  Putting words down in a story is difficult.  You have to think, not the easiest thing to do after a long day at work (at least for me).  In some ways the editing is worse; reading over the words with which you have toiled so long with the express purpose of mercilessly cutting, re-shaping, and massaging them into something better.  Always with the sad feeling that if you are appropriately ruthless, there is  good chance that some of the stuff you like the best will wind up discarded.

Of course it is not always like that.  Some days the workout is awesome.  The cardio is not quite a difficult as it was the week before, you can do more reps, lift more weight, work your muscles longer and harder with a little less effort than you would have thought.

Likewise, there are days when the words just pour out of you.  You can’t get them down fast enough.  The pacing is great, the dialogue is witty or appropriate, or both, and all of your characters are cooperating.

I want more days like that.

The Reward

After I’m finished though — after the weights are racked, the bench wiped down, and the cool down is over, I feel great.  I have that sleepy, good-tired, I-am-going-to-sleep-well-tonight feeling.  Also, I feel better than everyone else, and really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Likewise, after I’ve cranked out a 1,000 words, or edited an entire chapter, I feel a real sense of accomplishment, that little glow that says that I have been creative, rather than having sat around on my ass doing nothing.

The Problem

So, if working out and writing both yield these desirable feelings, why do I procrastinate and put off doing both?  I will do almost anything to avoid writing — check my author platform, tweet some helpful links to other authors (after searching for said links, of course), put together some Lady Merreth graphics, rearrange my sock drawer.  I’ve even worked out to avoid writing.

Same with working out.  I’ll do much to avoid it up to and including writing.

You’d think I could use each issue to address the other.  Write to avoid working out, and work out to avoid writing.

Sadly, i doesn’t work that way.

The Plan

I’ve been reflecting on this for a while and I think the solution is two fold;

First, cut my workout time drastically.  I can spend well over an hour lifting weights and doing various exercises, and I do that four to five times a week.  Confronting 75 minutes of workout time is a bit daunting.   So I’ll cut that in half.  Work out no more than 40 minutes.  When the clock ticks over to the 40 minute mark, it’s over.    I’ve done that twice now and it seems to be working. I can do 40 minutes easily.

Second, take a leaf from my working out ‘book’ and apply it to writing.  When I started working out I did five minutes on a rowing machine and stopped.  Five minutes.  That was it, because anyone can do five minutes.    Five minutes became seven, which became ten, and then I started with some light weights and so on.  But the key was the first five minutes because I thought working out would be unpleasant (necessary, but unpleasant) but I could probably get through five minutes.

So, I’ll apply that to writing.  Five minutes a day to writing or editing.  Because anyone can do five minutes, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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