If you’ve been a writer for longer than a day and spoken with any published author, you’ve heard this advice: Write every day. But how does a person do that? The best analogy is exercising, specifically, running.
To get real for a second, I have always struggled with my weight. Right now, I’m 160 pounds. When we launched the Buck Off Magazine (two years ago), I was 130 pounds and when I graduated high school in 2009, I was pushing 180. As such, I’ve come across a fair number of exercising tips and tricks – I’d like to share some of them and how you, the writer, can utilize them.
One of the first tips any new runner learns is to start slow. I’ve been told that beginners should not run miles, instead they should run blocks or a lap. The reasoning is that if you haven’t run a mile in while, you’ll burn yourself out. Pacing is a key component to training. The same can be said for writing. No one has ever sat down and written a novel – not even J.K. Rowling.
Start slow. Write a sentence, a paragraph, maybe half a chapter. Then take a break.
Another tip I hear frequently is to run by time. Not, time how fast I can run, but exercise for a certain block of time. The first week, walk for ten minutes. The second week, up the ante and complete 20 minutes. On the third week, go big and walk for an hour. Follow that pattern until you reach a point where it levels out and you get a good work out done but are not exhausted.
For writers, it’s the same thing. Find five minutes in day and write. Then expend that time to write for 15 minutes. You’d be surprised how much you can write in five minutes. Even if it’s just making notes – it’s something to celebrate.
Let’s be real, everyone wants to be acknowledged for their hard work. When it comes to running, once you complete your first mile without falling down or breathing heavily, celebrate the success by doing something fun. Treat yourself with a tasty snack, brag about it on Facebook, see a movie or veg out on the couch for a night.
The same goes for writing. When you finish a chapter or write a truly magnificent scene, tell someone. Go out and have a nice dinner or read a truly trashy vampire book. It’s okay to commemorate a victory, no matter how small it seems. Just don’t over celebrate and make sure it’s real accomplishments.
Have a friend
A popular work out tip is to have a friend join you. If you make running with someone an obligation you’re more likely to do it because you’ll be held accountable. Having someone who will do to the gym with you also makes it less than a chore and a bonding time, makes it something to look forward to.
For writers, this is the most important habit they can develop. On the Buck Off staff, we share works as we write them. Editor Sara is currently writing a book, Editor Sandy is working on a series of poetry and I’m writing short stories. We email drafts to each other, not only for a second and third opinion, but it pushes us to create. Right now, I’m reading chapter three of Sara’s book and she’s reading the first half of a fic I’m writing. I want to make sure that while I’m reading, she can be reading too – it’s a partnership that will end with publication.
Using just one trick might help, but sometimes I don’t feel like writing. Sometimes I don’t have the time to write. And sometimes I’m too busy to read. That’s life and you’re living. Things will get in the way.
So combine these tricks. Use the ones that work for you, when they work for you. As long as you write something, sometime, you’re a writer. Don’t stop because it’s hard – you don’t get six-pack abs by not exercising.