Many writers, including myself, struggle with the idea of a ‘writing practice’. All I desire is to share my writing with the world, publish my novel, and hopefully earn enough in the interim to ward off malnutrition.
Simple, right? If only!
If you are anything like me, you’ve spent too many unfocused hours at a computer. I was weighed down by life’s obligations, which tugged me in the opposite direction of my dreams. Stuck in the current of my overstuffed life, the little time and effort I devoted to writing produced very little.
If my unbalanced priorities weren’t enough of an excuse, I also suffered from crushing anxiety. Instead of jumping at unpaid opportunities, I pitched stories and never delivered. Halfway through the first draft of my novel, I stopped writing.
My internal frustration manifested physically. I couldn’t sleep. I ate copious amounts of junk food. My belly pooch expanded. I had no energy. A few months into my reign as the queen of the couch potatoes, a friend invited me to join a running club. That simple invitation changed my life. Running has taught me how to turn daily practice into progress.
Here are five athlete tips to apply to writing:
1) Eat a healthy diet
Junk food is yummy. However, it provides little nutritional value. You can’t feed your body mostly junk food and expect it to perform at its highest.
As a writer, your diet is the material you consume. Pay close attention to your writing output after a Netflix binge. Does zoning out to Friends reruns, or killing zombies on PlayStation truly bring you joy? Or is it a means of procrastination? Be wary of ‘fillers’ in your diet that take the space of healthy, nutritious material to better your mind and practice.
A writer’s diet should be varied and purposeful. Consume books on the craft of writing, books in your genre, bestsellers, and the classics. Feed your mind.
2) Prioritize your sport
If you choose to become a writer, you will need to structure your life around it. Your time will be divided among writing, preparing to write, research, revising, and marketing your work. Time will also need to be carved out for being human – sleep, work, family time, etc. Whew!
It only makes sense that you would select a ‘sport’ or type of writing that you love. If you want to become a professional baseball player, you don’t spend all of your time at the basketball court. It isn’t selfish, or impractical, to build your life around goals. In fact, it is the only way to truly commit to them.
A marathon runner requires devotion and time to perform during races. A writing career is a marathon that could last a lifetime. Prioritize your ‘sport’!
3) Select a training schedule that works for you
Athletes know that they are building a lifestyle. When you build your training schedule, you take into account your own personal preferences. If you are a morning person, you don’t schedule your runs at 8:00 PM. Likewise, if you are a night owl, scheduling yourself for a dawn training session is setting yourself up to fail. When are you the most productive in your practice? Schedule your life around your writing, not your writing around your life.
4) Cross train for better results
A training schedule should gently push an athlete to their best, not injure them within the first week. Runners don’t run at their maximum speed and distance at every practice. Each week is divided into hills, sprints, long distance, easy and timed runs.
There are many different activities that contribute to a writing practice. Freewriting, journaling, writing prompts, plotting, blogging…the possibilities are endless! To write every day, each day write differently.
5) Get enough rest
Some days, our muscles and joints beg for a break. We listen to our bodies to avoid injury. Listening to our minds can help us avoid burnout. Even with warm-ups, cool-downs, and stretches, a heavy training schedule takes its toll. Allow yourself the freedom to take the day off.
Don’t spend your day off on the couch – play purposefully. Take the time to remember why you write in the first place. Invest in decorating your writing space. Shop for new books, visit a library, or sketch a book cover!
Too much rest causes muscles to atrophy and impedes progress. Keep your pen to paper, and those hands on the keyboard. One step at a time, one word at a time – you are a writer after all.