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.
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.