Hello, writing fam!
I hope this post finds you and your work-in-progress well! I’m still editing my fantasy trilogy (I’m hating it less and less each day, but maybe I’m just getting numb to it…?), and literally just finished the first draft of Book 2 in my Orchid series…which means more editing in my future, but hey, it’d be unfair if every aspect of the writing process was fun, right? 😛
Book One in The Petros Chronicles is still competing for publication on Kindle Scout, so head over there and give it a nomination if it strikes your fancy!
In this week’s post, I want to dive back into the lessons I’ve learned from the gym and how they can benefit our writing. A few weeks ago, I discussed the importance of simply starting, because beginning a new endeavor is typically the hardest part. The second hardest part is our subject today, and that is being consistent once we take the plunge and enter into foreign territory.
Lesson #2 from the gym is this:
Consistency is a Must
Most people who start working out know that in order to see results, they have to make exercise and healthy eating a regular part of their life. They have to be consistent.
Going to the gym once or twice a week when they can “fit it in” or “feel like it” accomplishes nothing, save for perhaps a short-lived endorphin high. Eating whole, unprocessed foods one day each week and then chowing down on bagels and fries the other six is a recipe for failure.
Throughout my time as a personal trainer, I’ve often been surprised by the number of gym-goers I meet who are frustrated that they haven’t lost weight despite working out. The reason is usually clear to me: They haven’t been at the gym as much as they think they have, and/or they’re not eating well during the 23 hours they’re not at the gym.
Ordinarily, my advice to them is something along the lines of: “Work out four to six times a week for at least 45 minutes each session, and write down everything you eat for a week.”
Very quickly, they see that lack of consistency is at the root of their weight-loss woes.
It’s not enough to have good intentions, nor to have all the necessary tools and implements in place to facilitate significant progress. You have to show up day after day and put in the work. Someone can have a membership to the most luxurious, high-dollar gym in the world, own a zillion workout gadgets, high-tech blenders, and running shoes, but if they don’t have the discipline to put those things to use on a daily basis, it’s all for naught.
It’s the same with writing. It’s awesome to have a set goal we want to achieve, but unless we carve out time every day (or most days) to pursue it, we’ll be no closer to it in a year than we are today.
A fancy laptop, cute notebook, scads of pens, and a drool-worthy office loaded with books and inspirational knickknacks are wonderful to have, but if we’re only making use of them when we feel the Muse alight on our shoulder, we won’t get very far. Consistency, as they alliteratively say, is key.
“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins
One of the most fundamental parts of consistency is patience, a virtue we’d all be wise to nurture, no matter our vocation.
At the beginning of new ventures, it’s relatively easy to feel enthusiastic (once the initial fear of the unknown has given way to an adrenaline-like excitement) about our goal. We’re still running on the entrepreneurial fumes of whatever motivated us to get started in the first place. We’re sprinting through our tasks, crossing things off our to-do list faster than the Flash can run around Central City.
But eventually, we lose steam. The enthusiasm fades. The fumes wear off. Our sprint slows down to a lumbering walk. It’s at this point that most people burn out and quit.
But like physical fitness, creating meaningful art is a marathon, not a sprint.
The lulls in the journey are meant to try our commitment and test our will. They’re there to present a pivotal choice: keep moving (patience), or turn around (impatience).
Do we continue putting in the hours at the gym despite our lack of motivation? Do we continue to work on our manuscript despite a lingering bout of writer’s block? If we want to reach our goals and see our dreams come to fruition, the answer is a resounding YES!
There is a natural law known as the compound effect. If we consistently invest a small amount of money, compound interest will eventually take over and growth will become exponential. It’s the same with any habit, from eating five servings of veggies a day to writing a thousand words a day.
If we stick to something long enough, the compound effect will prove true. We’ll gain momentum and experience mind-blowing results.
Here are a few tips for staying consistent:
Have a Set Schedule
My husband and I often advise our CrossFit clients to treat their workout time as they would a business meeting or a doctor’s appointment. Unless a major emergency springs up, those things don’t get canceled and neither should our workouts.
If we’re serious about writing X number of words a day or X amount of books per year, to name but a few creative goals, then our writing time should carry the same weight as any other important activity.
There are days when I stare at my screen for a solid twenty minutes before any words come out of my fingers. When I was just starting to write novels, I figured this “writer’s block” was a sign I needed to do something else for a while. Au contraire… This was another test, a test to see whether I had the patience to wait for the words to ripen.
When I was just starting to write novels, I figured this “writer’s block” was a sign I needed to do something else for a while. Au contraire… This was another test, a test to see whether I had the patience to wait for the words to ripen.
In this instant-gratification world we live in, it’s tough to be patient. We’re conditioned to expect convenience and easy access. So, when we find it difficult to write right away, we often feel antsy, anxious, and worse, defeated.
But there’s reward in staying put, in being still, in letting the creative process unravel the way it wants to and not being in such a rush to type-type-type. As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait, so don’t walk away from your writing session too soon.
My husband Ben coaches a 5:15 a.m. CrossFit class Monday through Friday. It’s unbelievable how faithful those early birds are. Seriously. It takes the flu or something equally debilitating to keep them from those pre-sunrise sweat sessions.
One reason these folks are so dedicated is because by scheduling their workout first thing in the morning, there’s little to no chance of anything coming up beforehand to prevent them from going. Sure, it’s a struggle sometimes to wake up before the crack of dawn, but once they’re up and at ‘em, they have the satisfaction of knowing they don’t have to worry about fitting in their workout for the rest of the day.
If you’re struggling to make writing a daily habit, try tackling it first thing in the morning when your willpower and energy levels are high. Set a word-count goal (say, 500 words in an hour’s time), and once it’s knocked out, allow yourself the option to either keep going or move on to another item on your agenda.
If you’ve been alive for more than a day, you’re aware that life occasionally throws us curveballs. As such, there will be days when we can’t write first thing, or when our scheduled writing appointment gets canceled. Don’t let these interruptions be a deal-breaker for you and your work-in-progress. Find another time in your day to fit some writing in.
Even if you’re only able to write for five minutes. Even if you don’t have a pen on hand and can only sit and think about your book. The point is to honor your art by sticking to your habit.
It’s amazing how quickly our good habits, which took a long time to establish, can dissolve. Making excuses for a few missed writing sessions can be a slippery slope, so it is imperative that we show up even on the most hectic of days. This not only ensures that our story stays fresh in our mind, but that our mental game remains strong as well.