Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Writing is Like Exercise

I spent the first couple of years of my writing life just writing whenever I felt like it or had a few hours in the evenings. I'd go for days at a time when I didn't write anything, then go for days at a time when I wrote tons.

But writing is like exercise: if you only do it once in a while, you're not really going to get the same results as if you do it every day. Writing when I felt like it led to a lot of rough or half-written and partially-polished manuscripts.

Recently, I've committed to writing something every day. Not always a lot of something - sometimes just a line or two on an envelope, then crossed out and revised over and over on that same envelope until it's perfect - but every day, I write something, or I revise something, or I do both.

Even when I've got a mountain of dishes to wash.

Even when I don't feel inspired.

Even when I'm so exhausted that one blink lasts for five minutes.

I turn on the computer, or I get some paper, and I write.

And after a few minutes of this, I find that I am no longer tired, or distracted, or uninspired.

I see now why so many authors tell us unpublished writers to treat writing like a job. Because exercising that writing muscle of sitting down every day and focusing your mind on one thing - your story - develops the muscle, until getting into the flow becomes easy and natural. Just like lifting a 5-lb weight for 40 reps every day will develop that muscle until lifting the weight becomes an easy job, writing every day has, for me, made it easier to write.

But I know there are published authors out there who will disagree, so I want to know what you guys are doing, and if it's working.

Do you write every day, or only when you're inspired? What works for you?


  1. That's a great way to do it. I have to write when I can with working full time and getting my daughter to swim practice. I have to accept that's all I can do right now. Usually though once I get into a project I write most days.

  2. I need to get back on this train. I've been better about exercise than writing. Great reminder. Thanks!

  3. I write every day without fail, but some days I write less than other days. I don't think I'll ever be a 4000 word a day girl, but I think that's the picture book girl in me. I'm an MG writer in training.

  4. I don't work on my novel every single day, but I always do something writing related, even if it's just critiquing.

  5. It's definitely more productive to write something every day, though like exercising, muscles need to rest after a workout or there'll be damage. That's why I'll change up what I'm writing, from the novel some days to a poem or blog post on another.

  6. When I am in the middle of a WIP, I will write any minute I can find. When my kids are playing nicely, or watching a show, or late at night when they are asleep! But when I am in between PBs (as I am now) I only brainstorm when they are in school. I need a big block of time to try to get something new off the ground.

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  8. Sorry for the 2nd post - I found a typo. I'm pretty tired right

    I've heard that, to master writing, you need to write at least 3 hours every day.

    I'm pretty good about the 3-hour-a-day rule, though I sacrifice a lot of personal time to do it. Some days I write wonderful, gripping passages and some days I write terrible gunk. But at least I'm writing, right?

    I really like your exercise metaphor. Like any skill or muscle, you have to work consistently - especially when you don't feel like it - to be truly great.