Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Writing As Cardio
I don't awaken eager to fire up my laptop and begin writing, but I love having written.
I feel the same way about exercise, especially during this record-breaking Texas heat.
Pitfalls lurk both in writing and workout plans. No credible exercise program guarantees steady weight loss. In fact, many warn newbies they'll initially gain pounds as they build muscle.
For writers, there's painful lag time between learning a craft point and internalizing it and between pinpointing what's not working in a manuscript and figuring out how to fix it. Worse, many a new writer's voice has been squashed, temporarily, by feedback that focuses on grammar rather than on storytelling ability.
Am all-or-nothing attitude sabotages exercise and writing progress. Anyone who overdoes cardio risks working up an appetite so ferocious it can derail a diet—and who can pump iron while holding a doughnut? A writer who doesn't lift her head from the work in progress starves the muse that's hungry for snippets of overheard dialogue and impressions of people recently encountered.
Plateaus, damn them, exist to test the fortitude of exercisers and writers. Imagine working out six days a week for two months without seeing any change on the scale. Now picture a writer stretching her writing muscles for weeks before results appear on the page. It takes discipline and a stubborn streak to keep going when there's little measurable progress.
In exercise and in writing, it matters that we show up. If I go to the park and walk two miles, sweat will trickle past the brim of my ball cap and sting my eyes, but I might spot a blue heron along the bayou and lower my blood pressure. If I open my Word document and begin typing, I might produce many unusable paragraphs, but there's a good chance something will gel and I'll make progress.
The joy that comes with in having written and exercised is a pipe dream until we begin.