Your Writing Fitness

About a year ago, without really intending to, I started to get fit. I am a girl with a permanent moontan who has spent a great deal of her life in libraries, so don’t underestimate how unusual it is in my profession to be physically active or outdoorsy. It started with me buying a bicycle, then deciding I was going to ride it to the top of the mountain near my house. It took a few months for me to get all the way to the top (up the easy side), and then another few to make it regularly all the way around, then a few more to make it up the hard side and around (which is now my regular route). Because I started to get muscles in my legs and feared looking like a Tyrannosaurus, I then signed up with an exercise physiologist to do some upper body work once a week, then did a bit more of that, got back into my pilates, decided to learn to swim, and so on. It was kind of an avalanche of physical activity and I certainly feel wonderful for it (especially boxing; lord how I love boxing). My back has never been better and I’ve put on 4kg of lean muscle (still can’t get lids off jars though) and my resting heart rate is 62 beats per minute. I like to imagine my heart looking like Conan, pumping out such a big whoosh of bubbling blood every second that it can rest and pick its teeth in between.
kim on a bike
But this isn’t about physical fitness, it’s about writing fitness. While riding my bike around and around that mountain, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my writing and about writing habits in general. These are the five lessons about writing fitness I have learned from regular exercise.
1. A 6-week binge won’t improve your skills measurably and permanently. You need to do a little every day if you want results. Think sustainable, not grandiose goals that won’t stick.
2. There is always somebody faster than you. Don’t compete with them.
3. There is always somebody who seems to get to the top of the hill with much less effort than you. Sometimes it’s because they have an advantage, like a personal mentor, or a family who have encouraged them since birth, or expensive equipment. Don’t compare yourself with them.
4. Your writing fitness will be apparent in more than just measurable goals such as word count. It will be in nuanced craft things that you don’t notice at first, but which start to come naturally and readily where they didn’t before.
5. Find a way to enjoy the process rather than solely being motivated by the outcome.

That’s it.

10 responses to “Your Writing Fitness

  1. Great post and reminder, Kim. Even with a very supportive husband who can see it (apparently), I despair I’ll ever notice anything re no. 4.

    I also like how exercise (for me, swimming) gives you time to mull on stories.

  2. Love it, Kim. Fitness for me has always been a stress release, but I’m convinced that a fit body and brain thinks better, too. And if you think better, you have to write better.

  3. whilst not a writer (long time listener, first time caller) finding a way to enjoy the process rather than being solely motivated by the outcome (read as: tradesman brain) really appeals to me and causes me to stop and think.

  4. I often revisit your posts for motivation and insight and fun. This one I just read tonight (I’m running a few months behind the rest of my life) and I think it’s my favourite.
    I’ve exercised my whole life – even worked in the industry for a couple of decades and still publish articles on fitness. I’ve also always written stories. Thing is, as I read your post I realised that the lessons you espouse above (and which, when it comes to fitness, I have always lived by and passed on to others) I tend not to apply to my writing. Go figure….
    You see, when I exercise I do it for me; I love the buzz, the challenge, the process, the aftermath. I’ve spent my life committed to being fit, in which case it really isn’t a commitment at all, it just is.
    My writing is slightly different. I love it but – for a whole host of reasons – I’ve allowed it to be a fraught process. Kind of, I guess, the way many people view exercise…
    In recent months that’s begun to change. I’ve written more frequently, I’ve thought less about the outcome and allowed myself to be carried away with my stories, I’ve worked hard to resist the tendency to be crushed by someone else’s word count, and I’ve begun to honour and appreciate my own style. Exactly what I’ve always done when I’ve exercised. And it feels wonderful. And genuine.
    Thanks for this post, Kim.
    And congratulations on every one of your fitness milestones! x

  5. Pingback: Improve Your Personal Innovation Skills | The Discipline of Innovation

  6. Even though your story was about writting fitness it really helped me with my career. I often feel like I can never be as good as my colleagues or my boss who has been a chiropractor for a lot longer than me etc. Ur concise advice has really helped me to be less depressed about how I feel about my skills. So thank you :).

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