With the advent of 2014, many New Years resolutions were made. Handsome Hansel of Dance of Romance not only plans to tone up those biceps, he also plans to put some “No Pain, No Gain” techniques to his writing.
I’m a bit fluffier than I’d like to be right now. Over the last four months life has thrown every obstacle in my path. Because of that, I’ve let myself go a bit. Gained a few pounds, sprouted around a bazillion new gray hairs, and have allowed my overall word count towards writing plummet.
Philosophically it could be argued that if all of this is happening, it must be the path I’m supposed to be on. Well, Socrates has it wrong. I don’t remember him ordering for me at the drive-through. I don’t recall him ever around my hair. And I certainly don’t believe he would have the heart to throw the boulders of obstacles at me I’ve had to deal with.
You see between the funerals I’ve attended, the operations I’ve held others hands through, and even a psycho/stalker situation I’ve had to “open an investigation” into, I still had time to workout and write. Yet I slacked. Big time.
I’m not writing all of the above to go wee-wee-wee all the way home. That would be too easy to do. This isn’t a pity party either. It’s a giant group intervention for all of us. Granted, some of us won’t need this post but I’m willing to bet at some time in the past they did. To those writers…bear with me. (Or is it bare? Can’t be, that makes it sound dirty.) See what I’m talking about?! Both my writing and I are out of shape!
I was frustrated with my writing as well as my lack of motivation for getting myself back to the gym. These were both things I did routinely every day of the week but one. A few months back I looked at the wall of machines at my local Planet Fitness the same way I did at the words “Chapter 1” staring back at me from my iMac. With fearless abandon. I knew I could handle it and hang in there for the long haul. A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure I could do either.
At the first of the year, just like the multitudes across the planet, I made a pact with myself to turn things around. (I then behaved as a lot of them did and waited until January 6th to start. Because, well, it was a Monday. And Mondays are the only day you can start things. Honest.)
So on January 6th I go to the gym and am dying within the first 30 minutes. Not Biggest Loser dying, but dying. After I get home and shower, I head to my ever forgiving iMac. I’ve started on my third book and am only two chapters in, last place I left it back in October.
I read what I’d written to catch myself up…and froze. I couldn’t remember exactly where I was headed with it. (I’m a pantser remember.) Two months ago I would have been immediately frustrated and probably switched to doing some easier writing. Something the rest of the world would never see. Instead, I jumped in. I forced myself to write. It wasn’t pretty but I was writing.
So when it comes to our writing, how do we whip it back in shape? How do we turn it from a desk-potato into a lean, mean, published machine?
Literally the same way we would be getting ourselves in shape. Start slow and gradually increase your intensity. Here’s what has worked for me, I hope it works for you.
I mentioned above that I forced myself to continue my new manuscript. What I mean by that is I went back to Writing 101. Write SOMETHING! Just as if you had a physical trainer, they would tell you to do SOMETHING. Anything. A nice way of saying they don’t care how you move your ass, but move it.
Once you get moving with your writing, you’ll find that over time you’ll automatically write more. Just as you would with a workout routine, the idea is to do a little more each day. It doesn’t matter if it’s one more minute on a treadmill or one more paragraph than you wrote yesterday. Simply do incrementally more.
After a week or so of exercising that writing muscle, it’s time to set goals. I’ve always looked at the first week of getting into a routine as a sort of dusting off. There is no point in goals for the first week as long as you’re doing something to move things in the right direction. After a week or so of clearing the cobwebs and blowing the dust off, it’s time to power up and get serious.
There are a variety of apps, planners, and online resources to help you with your goal setting. I’ll leave that part up to you to find what works best for your needs. Once you’ve found your trusty assistant, commit yourself forward. Set a goal for each and every day for the next month. Is your first day going to be to complete one page? One chapter? Then move on to the second day. And so on.
Since you took a week to get your bearings, you’ll have an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses are. Use that knowledge as your starting point. If after that initial cleansing week you have found you can only hammer out a page and a half, then set a goal of two pages for your first “official” day of getting back on track.
As with any workout routine you begin, you’ll find that over a couple of weeks, you’ll actually desire to do more than your goal even called for in the first place. Especially if you’ve written on a regular basis before. You’ll actually feel it coming back to you…your writing strength increasing. There will be a huge feeling of pride when you’re able to add another five pounds to your writing bench-press when you weren’t expecting to.
What happens if you miss a day? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet…we tend to beat ourselves up over it. We may even over-compensate the next day to make up for the one missed. That’s a mistake. Take it in stride and get yourself back to your writing gym the following day. Shake it off. You didn’t take a step back, you just didn’t take a step forward.
As with all goals, they are meant to bend a little. In the last three days, I have had a total of eight hours sleep. When I went to the gym today, I didn’t hit my goals because my body was like a whiney child at the tail end of a four hour car ride; crying about everything. I had to throw in the towel early and accept there was no way I was going to be able to get my body to do what I wanted. I had exhausted it. Instead of letting it get me down, I patted myself for getting to the gym and doing something at all instead of plopping myself on my office couch and taking a nap.
The same goes for writing. If life throws you a curveball and you think you don’t have the time, write anyhow. Even if it’s a few paragraph curls. If your head still isn’t in the writing game then proofread, edit, strategize a plot line. Do something.
Achieving your writing goals is going to come with a series of ebbs and flows. There will be good days and bad. There will even be great days and the occasional horrific one. With each day that passes you’ll feel yourself getting stronger. You’ll feel your writing calling for you instead of you forcing yourself to go to it.
Whether you’re starting new as a writer or getting back into it after a bit of a layoff, I hope this post has helped. It’s not easy getting back into the writing gym sometimes. But remember why we did it in the first place. Just as getting back into a workout routine helps with our physical health, getting back into a writing routine helps with our mental health. They’ve both always been stress relievers for me, as I’m sure they are for you.
So start your writing routine today! If you began a workout routine six months ago, today friends and family would be handing out compliments right and left as to how great you look; so too will you receive accolades for having your book published and feel the pride of others for having done something rather extraordinary.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the gym to try and get my girlish figure back.
Have you made any New Years resolutions for YOUR writing?
Join us on Monday for A Year in the Life of a Debut Author by Kelsey Browning
Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.
I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com
- The Pressure of Writing with Handsome Hansel
- How to Write a Best Selling Romance with Melanie Milburne
- Complacency – A Path Authors Should Never Tread with Handsome Hansel
- Writing When You’re Under The Gun with Handsome Hansel
- Make a Scene! or, Why Scenes Should Be Seen and not Heard – Miranda Liasson