Thursday, January 2, 2014

Writing As Exercise

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 blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Ashley, this was great! Very motivational and just what I needed! Thank you!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Very inspiring, Ashley! Since commit is my word for 2014, I've committed to free writing 500 words a day during the month of January. If all goes as planned, I'll continue it through the year. By the way, I've always wanted to try Zumba. It looks like so much fun!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Sherrinda! It's something I really want to work on. All too often, writing time falls to the backburner simply because I don't have a designated time for it, even though I'd consider it one of the most valuable uses of my time.

Ashley Clark said...

Jill, you should absolutely give Zumba a try! Just be sure you find a good teacher because that can make all the difference! I love your idea of free writing every day in January! I might try something like that myself! It helps to split goals into months, doesn't it?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Jill, 500 words a day. A great goal! Keep us posted how you do. We are your cheerleaders!

Mary Vee Writer said...

So, Ash,
I'll start the exercise tomorrow which is the day I have scheduled to be over this plague. I should be well enough for the physical and have the meds out of my head for the mental.
Good grief.

Ashley Clark said...

Hope you start feeling better soon, Mary! I didn't realize you were still sick! Poor thing! Being sick during the holidays is the worst!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Very practical advice here, Ash. I, for one, need to commit to some sort of writing goal. I just sort of fit it in when I can, or when I'm not too tired at the end of the day when everyone else is in bed. And lately, with being pregnant, I am just so stinkin' tired I haven't written anything. Planning on starting back up on book four as soon as I get some re-edits done on books 1 and 2. AAAANNNDDD... this is where that schedule needs to come into play. Working on it ;)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Amy, I feel your pain. I stopped writing with my third pregnancy - I was just too tired. Plus I was working part-time (teaching contract that involved at-home prep) and looking after two littlies. 5am HAD been my writing time, but I just could NOT face that while feeling completely shattered with exhaustion! I think you're mind-blowingly amazing that you're already up to book 4 - SINCE having kids. Holy moly. Honestly - you're my hero!! That is a massive achievement!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Ashley, love the whole writing-as-exercise analogy. Except it's making me feel guilty. I'm the obese girl in the corner huffing and puffing to do one sit-up while y'all are running rings around me. Haha!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you for your encouragement, Mary and Ashleigh. I appreciate it. I'll keep you posted. I'm logging in my 500 words on

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