| David Gane

The Exercise of Writing

Building the habit

A few weeks ago, Ang mentioned her love/hate relationship woman called Chalene and her Piyo exercise DVD[1]. She also said (or maybe blamed) my wife and I for introducing her to it.

I also blame my wife for picking it up because after a week or so of watching her do it, I decided to try it as well. It was a combination of Pilates and Yoga and I was not a flexible guy. I was never that physically active, so the idea of touching my toes pained me.

Yet, I did it. I sweated, I swore, I grunted, I made bodily noises. Then, near the end of the two month program, I hurt myself and started feeling pain and had to stop and let my body rest. But by then, I hated sitting on the sidelines and I wanted to get back in and finish.

I finally healed, and my wife started a second round of the same program, but we got bored, and so we bought another program called Chalean Extreme that included weights and cardio. And I sweated, I swore, I grunted, I made bodily noises. Now, almost at the end of it, I’ve lost weight, got stronger, and am now more active.

The whole process of exercise for me wasn’t about a temporary fix, but a lifestyle change. I don’t want to get extreme about it but treat it as moderate and regular maintenance of my health. I hope to be eating better and exercising years from now, because it makes me feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Building the Writing Muscle

Of course, as a teacher, I made connections this process with the day to day work of writing.

In my last post, I talked about how I had to rebuild myself as writer by relearning the habit of showing up at the page every morning and writing.

Often when I am teaching, I have students tell me that they have troubles doing their writing. They tell me me they can’t figure out the story, they keep changing the story, or maybe, they can’t find a story to tell. Usually, after a couple of questions, it is usually revealed that at the heart of it, they’re not doing the work or writing.

Ang and I have both said that we don’t believe in the notion of writer’s block. For me, writer’s block is the fear that putting the words on paper will reveal how bad they suck, coupled with the laziness or unwillingness to go back and fix them.

But I also believe in the notion of a writing muscle, and that if you don’t flex it regularly, it grows weak and it requires more effort to get it moving again.[1] Sit on your ass too long, and all the fears, insecurities, and laziness to do the work returns.

If you show up on a regular day and do a little bit of writing, over time you’ll become a stronger, leaner, and a better writer. You’ll develop the habit of doing the work, so that when you are away from it, you miss the payoff you feel when you are doing it.

Do the work

At the end of one of the workouts, Chalene says, “There are somedays I don’t want to work out. But I show up anyways and I feel better.” Now that I am back into the guts of the novel, I’m feel the same way. I show up and aim for my page count and then move on to enjoy the rest of the day.

It’s all about the work. Doing it is the key. Show up at the page every day and you can’t help to grow stronger.

  1. I’m not getting paid to to endorse any of these products. ↩︎

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