11 Ways Exercise and Writing are the Same

My writer friend Leslie Wilson and I completed a sprint triathlon. Although I am no athlete (believe me!), I have learned a lot by trying to stay in shape. As I worked out this morning, I tied 11 lessons to the journey of writing. Here they are:

  1. No pain. No gain. I’ve had some new authors meet with me, expecting to hear that the journey toward publication was like a walk in the park (a slow, meandering one at that). When I share my story of publication, either newbies will freak out, or choose to believe that my story isn’t normative and that they’ll get discovered right then, or give up. Here’s the truth. It hurts. It’s hard. It takes dedicated work.
  2. Writing is not a sprint. Writing for a living is a marathon full of shin splints, side aches, and breathlessness. If you want to succeed, you have to have some pain (including rejection.)
  3. Just do it. In terms of working out, I rarely FEEL like doing it. Half my battle is just putting on workout clothes! Once I do that, I figure I may as well sweat a bit. That’s the key to writing. It’s a choice. A dedicated choice. An intentional choice.
  4. Don’t expect immediate results. I’ve been back on track this year after suffering from shin splints as I trained for a marathon. I haven’t lost all the weight I want to lose. In fact, I stayed at a certain weight for a period of time. This made me want to give up. But I knew that if I kept at it, eventually I’d see results. I’m starting to feel stronger. Some weight has come off. But beyond weight and how I look, the interior goal of becoming in shape has really been met. It’s the same for writers. We may not be published right away, but we will improve. Our craft will get better slowly. That in itself is a worthy accomplishment.
  5. Hire a personal trainer. Sometimes we get stuck in a fitness rut. I know I had. So a while back I hired a personal trainer for a few sessions. She truly helped me see things differently. She pointed out my weak spots (my arms are as strong as Jell-O). She made me work harder than I ever thought I could. A good writing mentor can do that for you. He/she can point out where you’re weak, challenge you to dig deeper, inspire you to improve beyond what you thought yourself capable. If you need this, consider signing up for the writers mentoring intensive next month. There are a few spots left. (Price goes up April 30th).
  6. Fuel yourself well. As I’ve worked out, I’ve included good eating. Eating whole foods (those items you find in the perimeter of the grocery store) really help to feed your body, make it strong. Similarly, writers need to feed on great words to be able to produce amazing words. Poems, stories, anthologies, books in and outside your genre, essays, and of course the Bible–all these in variety help feed your imagination.
  7. Go outside. I’m happiest when I work out under a canopy of sky. And when I’m stuck in writing, a simple jog through the neighborhood usually helps jog my memory. (pun intended). Here’s a great article about running and memory.
  8. Don’t yo-yo. My trainer told me this yesterday: “It’s almost worse if you work out for a period of time and then become sedentary. It’s better to keep working out steadily.” It’s the same for writing. Sure, there are seasons in our lives where we need to place writing as a lesser priority, but if you’re truly serious about making writing a career, you’ll find a way to add writing to your life (even if in a small way) every day.
  9. Build muscle. Muscle burns fat. It helps us in many ways. Already I’m noticing my posture improve, and I have less neck aches at the computer because I’m lifting. In terms of writing, the more I work my writing muscle, the faster and better I write. Some folks ask why I write fast. It’s because I write a lot, building my muscle. And if I’m out of shape (not writing), my ability to generate words wanes.
  10. Welcome others alongside. Working out is not as much fun if you do it alone. I bring my crazy puppy with me, and we have a blast. As writers, we are more apt to succeed with community behind and around us. Go to conferences. Find a critique group. Interact online. Join associations. Going it alone will be a lonely, frustrating road.
  11. Have fun. Ultimately if working out is drudgery and frustration, you will quit. Similarly, in writing, you must cultivate a fun, carefree attitude. Instead of letting rejection sideline you, see it as a redirection. It’s not a no per se, but a new opportunity to grow! Use your words, too, to bless others. Don’t simply write for publication, but seek to write words to others that will bless them. Often it’s our unpublished words that make an internal impact. And learn to laugh along the way. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’m no workout queen. But I’m getting stronger. I’m able to run faster and longer. I can lift more weight than I did when I started. I can do push ups and modified pull ups now.

As a writer, I’ve spent nearly thirty years getting word-fit. In that time, I spent at least 10,000 hours and ten years in obscurity, writing miles and miles of words. I’ve had seven books published (34!). I’ve had the privilege to be a personal trainer to many through conferences and this space here. I’m happy, thankful, and blessed. All that work and discipline has paid off, by the grace of God.

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