Writing & Publishing Articles

What Writing Taught Me About Exercise

writing-and-exerciseBelieve it or not, I used to be a “sporty” kid. Now, I’m not saying that I had great athletic talent (far from it), but I played basketball for seven years, tried cheerleading and volleyball for two, and rode horses competitively (and for leisure) until I went to university. However, somewhere along the way I lost touch with physical activity.

“Somewhere” means age 14 to 15. It started in freshman volleyball, when my coach played favorites (I was not one) and made the rest of the team miserable. Couple that with breaking my arm while horseback riding the following summer, and I was ready to give up sports. I went from a casual athlete to a proud, non-exercising emo kid (but that’s another story).

Since graduating university, I’ve tried to get back into exercise. It’s been a difficult journey, but I think I’m finally making worthy progress again. While I doubt I’ll ever be able to do the splits or run a mile again, I hope to be reasonably fit for my age and keep my body healthy.

exerciseSo, what does all of this have to do with writing? A lot, actually.

In my efforts to rejoin the world of exercise, I’ve noticed numerous parallels between my “health” journey and my “writing” journey. For more on how exercise can help your writing (aka the reverse of this post), click here. Maybe some of them will help you with your own goals, or encourage you to break out that old notebook or yoga mat (whichever you need most).

Step 1: Labeling myself

I don’t believe that you can have success as a writer until you identify as a writer or as “someone who writes.” Making this simple shift enabled me to write my first novel. This same logic applies to my exercise goals. For the longest time, I saw myself as a gym outsider because I don’t identify as an athlete anymore. When I started thinking of myself as “someone who goes to the gym,” I suddenly felt the permission to go. Silly, but important.

Step 2: Choosing my “why”

While I love writing for fun, it was never reason enough for me to finish a novel. It was only when I set a specific, short-term goal (winning National Novel Writing Month) and a long-term goal (becoming a full-time author) that I finished a book. Similarly, when I tried to exercise just because I “should,” I rarely did. Now that I have specific, health-related goals, I’m much more motivated to exercise.

Step 3: Playing the long game

Like writing, exercise is a long-term goal. In order to see any benefit, you must commit to doing it every day (or several times a week). At first, this sucks. But, after I made exercise a regular part of my weekly schedule, both going to the gym and working out while there became easier.

teamStep 4: Finding a partner

My friend Jonas and I hold each other accountable to our writing goals. While we work separately, we’re walking the path to full-time authorship together. Similarly, my husband and I attend the gym together. Once there, we work out in separate spaces, but we both leave feeling encouraged and confident.

Step 5: Making good use of the time

A productive writing session consists of scheduling the time, planning the scene, then writing with 100% focus and 0% self-criticism. I’ve learned to apply this same system to my gym sessions. The only exception? If I focus on working out, I feel like passing out. Instead, I listen to podcasts or people watch.

Step 6: Forgiving lapses

If you fail to write, don’t guilt yourself. Promise to do better tomorrow. Same goes for exercise.

Step 7: Tracking my progress

I keep track of my daily word counts in a spreadsheet. This helps motivate me to grow my totals and avoid a “blacked-out” day on the calendar. I’m going to apply a similar, weekly system for exercise to keep myself on track.

Step 8: Learning from others

We’ve all seen those “writers” who constantly complain about writer’s block or their misbehaving muse and never write. On the other hand, we’ve all seen those non-stop superstars who we want to emulate. You’ll find those same people at the gym. Every session, I see people come in, do five minutes on the treadmill, and leave. But then there’s Stair Master Guy. He’s a middle-aged man who has been at the gym literally EVERY time I’ve gone – always on the Stair Master, always drenched in sweat. Now that is commitment I want to emulate.

While I have a good start on my writing journey, I still have a long way to go on the road to physical fitness. However, looking at the parallels between the two gives me hope. If I can go from a grumbling, suffering, wannabe writer to a published entrepreneur with two novels, surely I can go from couch potato to routine exerciser. Neither path is easy – but then again, I heard somewhere that nothing worth doing ever is.

So, take it from me. Whether you want to write a book, run a mile, or achieve some other dream, you can do it. The going is slow and difficult and not always fun, but you will get there with patience, commitment, and a positive attitude.


What writing lessons have proved useful in other areas of your life? What non-writing activities have taught you to be a better writer? Share in the comments.

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Step Into My Office (Or, Where I Write)

where-i-writeAs a reader, I love learning more about how my favorite books were written. Fun facts like how J.K. Rowling wrote the initial idea for Harry Potter on a napkin, or how Ernest Hemingway only wrote while standing (in a pair of oversized loafers, to be precise) always intrigue me.

I’ve shared by original inspiration for the Desertera series before (you can read about it here), but I realized I rarely talk about how or where I write. Admittedly, my “office” isn’t glamorous, but it’s gotten the job done twice now (14 times if you count my nonfiction projects).

My office spaceSome writers swear by the coffee shop – the white noise, the social pressure to look busy, the caffeine! – while others can’t imagine writing in public. I used to be in the second group. In fact, when given the option, I’ll always choose to write in the solitude of my office (aka the spare bedroom my husband also works in), wearing my cozy sheep robe, with a steaming up of chai tea (made with almond milk, of course) resting on my Kansas coaster.

On the weekends, I get my way and can write in my private little haven. But you know what? Most of the time, I can barely drag myself to the keyboard. Between the adorable meows of my feline son Thomas, and the seductive “buh-uh” of Netflix (don’t look at me like that – you know the sound!), and the pathetic reality of the empty refrigerator, there are about a hundred distractions that keep me saying, “I’ll write later.”

Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t. It’s always a gamble, and the voice in my head has a fantastic poker face.

Luckily for my readers and my sanity, the weekdays arrive again. Every morning, I pack my trusty laptop in my bag. (Disclaimer: I’m obligated to mention that it was a birthday present from my husband and I love it.) Then, I head to the train station, find my favorite seat in the “quiet car,” and write for the entire ride to work – and again, on the way home.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I hate writing on the train. Bumpy spots in the tracks make me commit unforgivable typos, the doors let in chilly breezes, and the other passengers take up more than their fair share of seat space (Can’t they see I’m writing, here?). But remember, inner me can’t be trusted.

On the trainWhen it comes down to it, I actually love writing on the train. The quiet car provides that crucial white noise – you wouldn’t believe how easily you learn to tune out conductors and announcements. The other passengers, while not always respectful of my space, provide that awful social pressure. (After all, I can’t have my laptop out like some kind of professional and not work.) And, I have to admit, I get a burst of satisfaction whenever I catch the person next to me reading over my shoulder … especially when they have a kind smile on their face!

And yes, I have written steamy scenes on the train. And yes, making eye contact with strangers when I do is hella awkward.

But the best part of writing on the train? It alleviates my writerly guilt. Like when you curl up with a book and ignore your family or friends, writing is a solitary craft. I hate spending evenings or weekends locked away in my study when I could be spending them with my husband or our friends. As long as I can get a seat on the train, I can easily write 1,000 words during my commute. So, when I get home, it’s all about enjoying dinner and each other’s company (and yes, Netflix).

As I said, it’s not the most glamorous office, but it gets the job done. Hopefully, I’ll be able to prove that to you again in a few months!


Do you have any fun facts about the writing of your favorite books? Where do you feel most creative or productive? Any other questions for me? Share in the comments!