Thanks for joining us for another edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the collective wisdom gathered from 15 years as a columnist and, much like an all-you-can-eat burrito bar, offer ingredients that will satisfy your writing hunger while still leaving you a little gassy. But don’t just take my word for it! Publisher’s Digest has heralded my weekly writing tips as “…A step-by-step guide to literary success, as long as you can walk backwards…” and what ®The Master of Horror Stephen King has called “…Writing milestones you’ll keep stubbing your toe on…”
But enough accolades!
It struck me this morning at the gym, while diligently pumping iron from a seated position at the smoothie bar, the number of similarities there are between reaching your fitness goals and writing goals, and how, in both cases, you will likely fail if you attempt too much too fast — especially if you’re trying to show off and accidentally flatulate while attempting a power lift. OK, now that the obligations required by my Gas-X sponsorship have been met, we can move on to how the same principles that make up a good fitness plan can be applied to achieving your writing goals. (Make sure to stop in next week, when Trojan will sponsor tips on expanding your readership.)
Just like many people who enter the gym for the first time and see the dozens of different
torture devices designed to make you look weak and destroy your self esteem fitness apparatus that can sculpt your body into lean muscle capable of opening even the most stubborn mayonnaise jar, those entering the world of writing often find themselves being crushed under the weight of their own lofty goals by not building up literary muscle first. And by this I don’t mean technique, style or developing your writing voice. I’m talking specifically about easing into writing project(s) and commitment(s) in a way that strengthens your writing endurance so you can avoid “injuring” yourself creatively.
This isn’t to be confused with creatively injuring yourself, which I also know about. But that’s a whole other post…
In the same way a smart fitness plan is built on improvements through gradually adding weight in small increments, running for longer periods or monitoring and increasing resistance in measured amounts, writers need to follow the same example if they want to keep their disciplined writing commitment from turning into sloppy repetitions that can hurt their goals. Any gym instructor will tell you lifting a lot of weight too quickly, or without the proper control, is pointless and even dangerous.
Especially if I’m your spotter.
The key is to recognize your limitations and commit to lifting nothing beyond that until it’s time to add more.
How will you know when it’s time? When you realize you’re making the circuit without getting winded. In literary terms, the best measurement I can give you is this: When you find yourself easily beating your deadline(s) on a regular basis — whether self-imposed or established by an editor or agent — you’re probably ready to build more muscle.
Until then, keep working the circuit and maintaining those steady, controlled writing reps.
But please: Stay away from the gym if you’re gassy.