Exercise. Who likes it?
Um, I'm pretty sure no one.
The new year has come, and I'll bet plenty of us are welcoming it with resolutions, or perhaps even lists, of what we want to accomplish. At the top of everyone's list is always "eat healthier, exercise." That is, until the first chocolate croissant comes along, and suddenly buying bigger clothes seems like it might not be that big of a deal. Are you with me?
See, I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. Meaning I love to not do it. I have never been one of those sporty girls who runs around a track a bunch of times and looks cute doing it. No, I've always been the my-side-is-cramping, would-someone-just-hand-me-an-ice-cream-cone type.
But several months ago, I tried Zumba, and man! It is so fun! It doesn't even feel like exercise, which is exactly what I need my exercise program to be like. This new year, I'm committing to do it more regularly. Did you know exercise not only keeps your weight healthy and your heart strong, but it also helps you sleep better and fight off stress hormones like cortisol? It really does make you happier. (Well, so they say. I still think there's reason for debate about what makes you happier: sweating or eating cookies.)
So, as I started thinking about how I'm going to fit more activity into my schedule, I realized that writing is a lot like exercise. If we aren't careful, we have every intention to do it, but time gets away from us. Instead of being polished, our manuscripts need a little trimming down, am I right? :)
As you are thinking through what you want to accomplish in this new year, I want to encourage you to add writing goals to your list. Pray about them. Sit down and think through them. Maybe it's something as grand as getting a publishing contract, or as simple as writing a few minutes a day.
What are some ways you can discipline yourself to think of writing as exercise?
- Commit to writing a certain amount of days each week, for a certain time period. I have friends who have young kids and always write during their kids' nap times, for example. Maybe you have a day job and can write during your lunch hour.
- Commit one day a week to a writing day. As a college instructor, I have a fairly flexible schedule, yet writing time always seems to get away from me because I don't often plan for it. If you, like me, have a day or two off during the week, why not commit Fridays or Tuesdays to be your writing day? Take your laptop and hit the local coffee shop until lunch.
- Set achievable goals (one solid hour of writing, three fifteen minute spurts throughout the day, etc.) and feel good when you achieve them, even if they seem insignificant. You won't be motivated if you're always lamenting the five minutes that got away-- it's really not that big of a deal, anyway. The point is that you start a writing routine.
- Find an accountability partner. Critique partners work great for this task, but you could also ask a mentor or even a friend who isn't a writer to check in with you once a week to be sure you are making progress.
- Don't be afraid to dream big! Put things on your list you can't imagine actually achieving. It's always better to shoot to high than aim too low.
- Ask the people around you (spouse, kids, parents) to help. Writing is a job. It may be a fun job, and it may seem like a flexible job. But try to rally the troops around you to respect what you're doing as not just goofing off, but working toward a calling/goal. If the phone rings during your one hour a day of writing time, for instance, do not answer it.
- Don't quit when things get hard. And as we know, exercise always gets hard. But on the other side of discipline lies all sorts of rewards, new goals, and dreams.
- Think of it like a mountain. You never know what the view will be like until you climb!
How do you structure your writing time? Do you have anything to add to this list?
Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.