Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flex Your Muscle: 5 Reasons Why Writing is a Lot Like Working Out

I'm not a gym nut. I'll admit that right off the bat. If I can get into the gym 3 times a week, I'm doing pretty good (although I should do 4 days/week). Basically I work out as much as I do for 3 reasons.

1. I LOVE food and I LOVE beer and if I didn't work out I would weigh 300 lbs (I'm not joking, I weigh 220 lbs as it is).
2. I need to keep slim and strong so that my back doesn't freak out.
3. I like to look good for my woman.

That having been said, I've noticed some strong parallels between writing and working out that I thought I would share with the class. Is everyone paying attention? Ok, here we go.

1. Quantitative Goals are Important
Everyone knows that setting goals is an important step for getting anything done. But how many times have you told yourself, "I'm going to get in shape!"? How about "I'm going to finish my WIP!"? Setting broad, over-arching goals like these is a good start but eventually you have to get down to numbers. How may times a week are you going to work out? How many pages do you have left to write? How many pounds are you going to loose per month? How many words a week are you shooting for? Setting quantitative (number driven) goals lets you see how far you've come and how far you have left to go. 

2. Setting Unrealistic Goals
This isn't a recommended first step; it's just reality. Everyone does it. "I'm going to work out 7 days a week and I'll have a 6-pack by the end of the month!" Laughable right? Kinda like, "I'm going to write 5,000 words a day and have a first draft out by the end of the month!" It's just human nature. We get excited and motivated and then we set unrealistic goals. The danger is that when we don't live up to those over-inflated expectations, we get discouraged and give up. DON'T GIVE UP...EVER. Just move on to #3.

3. Get Real
Ok, it's been a couple weeks and I don't look like Brad Pitt from Snatch (holy crap, how did he get so freakin' ripped?!?!). It's the end of the month and I don't have a flash fiction entry, let alone a first draft of my next novel. I guess it's time to settle down, get to business, and set some realistic goals. And when you do, keep in mind #4.

4. Scale Matters
I don't mean an actual scale that you weigh yourself on, I mean the scale by which you quantify your goals. Setting your goals at too large a scale (weight loss/words written per year) makes progress hard to measure. On the other hand, using too small of scale can send you on a progress roller coaster. For example, don't (I repeat DON'T) weigh yourself every day. An average person's weight fluctuates by 2-4 pounds per day due to factors such as water weight (especially if  you're female), when you eat, and when you...use the bathroom. Do yourself a favor and visit the scale no more than 1-2 times/week, max (Oh, and while I'm on my soap box, never pay attention to your "Body Mass Index" or BMI score, it's a bunch of crap).

Same thing with writing. Daily word totals are a good way to make yourself feel stressed and behind schedule. I prefer weekly writing totals so that the amount I write can fluctuate day to day as long as I get to where I need to be by the end of the week.

5. Set a Schedule, Rely on Routine
To make physical fitness work, you need to set a schedule and get into a routine. Pick certain times on specific days that will consistently work for you and set a work out schedule.  For those particular chunks of time, make working out your priority. Trying to get to the gym "when I can squeeze it in" doesn't work. Set a schedule and then make that schedule into a routine than you can stick to. I know it's easier said than done. I know life gets in the way but this is important. Stick to it!

The same thing goes for writing. Reserve certain times that are for writing only. Block them out on your day planner or calender. Write yourself reminders. Hire a homeless person to shout encouragement from the lawn. Whatever it takes, get into that office and write.

I've actually come up with a few more similarities while writing this post but I think I'll save them for another day. Stay tuned!


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