From Fitness to Fiction: Turning Over a New Leaf

 

Note: Grab your hot beverage of choice and get cozy. It’s gonna be a long one!

One of the hardest things to do in life is, in a word, change. Especially when change is a voluntary verb instead of the inevitable, unchangeable noun that forces us to accept a new status quo. While the latter type of change is no walk in the park, it often propels us to the next chapter in life – one full of rewards, blessings, and opportunities – that we never would have turned to otherwise. When change is a choice, however, we merely ponder what a “next chapter” might contain. We speculate about what its characters are like, what the setting, the tone, and the themes are, and what conflicts and obstacles might await us. And all that thinking, all those hours of contemplation and “preparation,”[1] does nothing but convince us that we’re quite happy with not venturing into unread pages.

And so we stay in the first act of our stories, the place in a film or stage play when the world is explained and the protagonist introduced. The place right before an event screenwriters call the “first plot point” occurs and thrusts the main character into a new direction and they must decide whether to take on the problem or flee from it. How dreadfully dull movies would be if the protagonists just backed down…

I do not mean to compare myself in the ensuing paragraphs to a heroic movie character, but I think it’s an apt metaphor we all can relate to. I’m sure you can think of occasions in your life when you battled two sides of yourself: one side urging you to chase a dream, the other scaring you with paralyzing what-if questions. I’ve been enmeshed in one such battle myself, and with this blog it’s my hope that I am definitively determining a winner.

I’ve been writing fitness-related books for 10 years (wow, I’m getting old!). I won’t bore you with the details of how that began, but long story short, my mom suggested that I write a fitness book for teens the summer before my freshman year of college. This idea was birthed because I had fallen in love with weightlifting and eating right during high school and received quite a few requests for help and advice from my peers. I had also struggled with an eating disorder for some time (I thought it was over – it wasn’t!) and wanted to help others in their fights against binge eating, undereating, low self-esteem and deadly comparison making, and the pride that drives so many of us to embrace and enable those harmful behaviors.

I wrote that first book at 19 when I still had much to learn in the way of leading a healthy lifestyle that wasn’t obsessed with a number on the scale or how many calories I burned and consumed.[2] A few years later, I wrote Fit for Faith, yet another faith-based fitness book that chronicled my personal journey of depression and joy, obsession and balance, and shared lessons of spiritual and physical health that I’d learned over the past five years. A year or so later, I wrote a women’s devotional/workout book called Perfect Fitsoon followed by my first nonfiction departure from explicitly fitness-related books.

To use the analogy from earlier, I believe that that season in my writing career was my Act I. It introduced me to the world of writing. It helped me find my voice and gave me invaluable time to get accustomed (somewhat) to the frustrating, competitive, perplexing, nerve-racking world of publishing. It also gave The Hunger inside of me time to grow into its paws.

I realize that last line sounds creepy, like I’m describing some monster from a Stephen King novel. What I mean by “The Hunger” is simply this: passion. I believe every one of us has a Hunger, something we daydream about when we’re sitting on the plane, staring out the window waiting for takeoff. Something we lie in bed thinking about on nights we just can’t fall asleep. Something we wish we could answer with when someone asks, “What do you do?”

The Hunger for me has always been writing.[3] I’ve been penning poems, jotting down stories, narrating my own audiobooks, and trying my hand at playwriting for as long as I can remember. All of my writing was of the creative sort. (Not to say nonfiction writing isn’t creative; I suppose the more precise word would be fiction.) I mean, what sort of child voluntarily writes about artificial sweeteners (they’re bad – don’t use them!), squats, and deadlifts as I would in my early twenties?

Obviously, nonfiction writing was my first foray into the professional writing world. After I wrote Fit for Faith, I also started the formerly fitness-focused blog you’re now visiting, and began contributing regularly to the Health section of Charisma’s online magazine. But The Hunger was increasing.

I was starving, desperate to write words that vibrated inside my soul and trickled out of my fingertips, yearning to escape into the farfetched and fantastic, the abstract and surreal, and eager to explore with my subconscious the ways my human experience might be woven into fiction. I remember editing the last pages of Perfect Fit and saying to my husband, “I can’t wait to write my novel!”

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” -Ella Fitzgerald

 

This post is already nearing 1,000 words, so I’ll save the bit about why I chose Film as my major and how my first screenplay morphed into my first novel. But the fact is, writing the words “Chapter One” onto a bright white, terribly daunting Word Press document titled “MOONBOW – Rough Draft” was one of the most frightening and thrilling experiences of my life. I could feel myself drifting out into deep, uncharted waters as safe, sunny Nonfiction Island became a speck in the distance.

After months of waiting for a traditional publisher to buy my book (I’ll save the details of that experience as well!), I decided to self-publish Moonbow last fall. Afterwards, I set to work on my second novel, and then yet another fitness book/devotional for couples,[4] after which it struck me that I don’t have to be either Team Fiction or Team Nonfiction. Fitness will always be an integral part of my life and a passion that I will enjoy sharing with others as long as I’m able. But now, I feel it’s time to feed The Hunger I have for storytelling, to let it reach its potential within a season all its own.

I may fall on my face a thousand times as I traverse this unknown territory of gaining an audience, getting a publisher’s attention, writing and rewriting, and generating new ideas after I’ve typed “The End” on my latest manuscript. But one thing’s for sure: it will be an adventure worth writing about.

This phase of my reinvented blog is still so new that I’m not exactly sure what shape it will take. All I know is that I want to share my writing journey with my fellow creatives and learn from them, as well. I want to continue to hone my craft and write stories that will entertain as well as inspire. I want to experience the uncertainties, the storms, and the trials of my Act II so that I can look back with no regrets at the end of Act III.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

 

What new chapter is tempting you to open it? Leave a comment or tweet me @dandersontyler.

Keep Shining, (1)

 

[1] Michael Hyatt has said perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. Well, I think preparation is its brother. There’s only so much preparing you can do before you just have to take that leap into the unknown and uncomfortable.

[2] I talk about my eating disorder at length in my memoir published last year, Immeasurable: Diving into the Depths of God’s Love.

[3] I will go to my mom’s house soon and take and post photos of the bins full of short stories and wannabe novels I wrote as a baby writer.

[4] The next novel will be released sometime next year, while the fitness book, Perfect Fit: Couples Edition, will be published this spring!

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