Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pull up your sweat socks and put on your leotard—we’ve got work to do.

Tip of the Day: doing something to make the writing process more enjoyable, such as having online writing friends, can help improve every aspect of the writing journey.


People write for many different reasons. Some people write for the love of it. Some people write because characters chase them around begging to be written. And others write thinking it might bring them fame and fortune like J.K. Rowling (though I suspect most of those people that write merely for this reason probably aren’t reading this blog).

I wish I could be the writer that writes for love. And loves every second of the writing process, from beginning to end.

But I’m not.

And instead of getting mad about it, I’ve come to accept it.

Because writing for me is exactly like my view on exercise.

Which is very much a love/hate relationship.

I’m more the writer that writes because I have to. If I don’t, I’d never get any sleep or get anything accomplished with all these stories and thoughts in my head. Writing is something I have to do. Just like exercise…

I know I need to do to function, but at the same time the mere thought of it most days doesn’t excite me at all. And you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to the treadmill, because I simply don’t want to do it or even think about it.

Then when I force myself to sit in front of the computer or get on the treadmill because I’m feeling sluggish and feel I’ll bust if I don’t get any exercise, instantly, I feel better. My mind starts to switch, thinking this isn’t so bad. And wondering why on earth I have such ill feelings towards exercise, since it’s actually quite fun and relaxing and almost enjoyable.

Then when the treadmill program gets a mind of its own and makes you go up hill after hill and it gets hard and becomes more work than fun, I’m instantly reminded why I don’t like to exercise. But I push and challenge myself forward, because I must. And the satisfaction of doing so is so great that I can’t believe I ever had bad feelings towards exercise at all. I can’t wait to do this again, to get this amazing feeling.

And the cycle continues as soon as I leave the gym.

Some days it’s worse than others and others it’s not so bad. But always it feels like it’s going to be the worst thing in the world and it never turns out being as bad as I imagine.

I’m not quite sure why this happens, or if I’m alone in my delusional exercise/writing thoughts. Or even if there’s a cure for this. But what I do know is that for me, I’ve done some things in the past that have helped make this process slightly less horrible to think about.

Such as exercising with friends. Or doing sports, which to me feel much less like exercise than, say running. Or the time I joined the gym and went religiously every day in the afternoon merely because Newlyweds was on the TV and I didn’t have cable at home. (Hey don’t judge. While it might not be conventional it was the best motivational tool I could find, and it worked.) Getting it not only into my schedule, but giving me something to enjoy going to every day.

With writing I do the same thing. Such as finding a writing friend to share the journey with. Writing in a genre and writing characters that get me the most excited. Or doing things out of the ordinary to keep me writing every day. One excellent piece of advice I was told was that you should stop writing for the day in the middle of a scene, because you are more likely to want to return to it the next day to finish it. And once you are working, it’s easier to keep working. This really works for me. Other people give themselves word count or page count goals to reach every day, feeling the sense of accomplishment that propels them forward and makes it more satisfying.

Whatever you do, I think it works to grab onto something to make the work and exercise just that much more fun. It gets you through the challenging aspects of writing and the loathing of it, for those of us that seem to face that more than others. And it makes it easier to get back at it every day.

--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent

8 comments:

Ghost Girl said...

Love the title of this one, Em! (Leotard?!)

There are a lot of reasons I write--catharsis, obsession, enjoyment...

But whatever the reason, the process is a jumble of emotions and hair-pulling explorations that in the end, give me a high that nothing else can. It is that dragon that simply has to be slayed because I have something to say. Really...I have something to say.

For me, exercise has to be entertaining, which is why I've always loved the horses. I can get lost in them, in their personalities, in their needs (instead of my own). It never felt like exercise, though it is plenty of work. But those personalities are like the characters that live with me. There is always a problem to solve, always a skill to hone, always a new emotion to probe. Man I miss my horses! It's been almost 7 years (the longest I've ever gone without a horse in my life!) and I really ache for it. But I have to say, I have plenty of writing friends and characters to keep me flexing those other muscles.

...sorry, I think I got that whole cardio thing going with this long post! I'll hang my sweat socks out to dry, now.

DeenaML said...

Em, this post is SO TRUE. Man, putting on sports bra or opening my Word doc are the hardest parts every time.

Emily Marshall said...

I know GG I don't think anyone wears a leotard anymore, but it sounded funny to me :)

And you are right, there's so many more reasons I write then just the basic one that I mentioned in the post. And finding a character or plot to wrap yourself in, like you mentioned with your form of exercise sometimes makes all the difference.

And couldn't agree more Deena.

Kate Fall said...

It's so true Emily ... so many days I want to do anything but write. It's not like I'm forced to be a writer by anything or anyone external. It's all me, baby. And yet like Deena said, opening up that Word doc is so hard. I feel like I have to trick myself. "Oh, I'll just write one quick paragraph and then I'll do something fun."

Fortunately shame works for me. I hate to admit to my critique group that I was too lazy to get my next chapter done. Yeah, I can see how an exercise group would come in handy.

Lisa Schroeder said...

You are so right - exercise and writing are a LOT alike!

Just like exercise, getting started is 3/4th of the battle for me. But once I start, I often don't want to stop. :)

Emily Marshall said...

Glad I'm not alone! Yes, getting started is half the battle, but once we start it feels pretty nice.

And Kate, shame works for me too. It's amazing how much better and faster I work, knowing I have someone that's agreed to read it on a certain date or is waiting for it. And I always get way more done in a exercise class or with friends than by myself. The extra push does wonders.

Kristina Springer said...

I'm the oddball! I don't have to force myself to write at all-- maybe it is because I didn't start writing fiction until after I had kids? So writing is my escape-- I get to leave and go somewhere and drink coffee and write. I'm always happy when I get to go. :-) And I almost always get tons done.

Now revising, edits etc. Yeah-- that's another story.

Emily Marshall said...

Tina, I kind of lump revision and edits into the writing process. Even so, I'm still jealous with you and your writing-love. But I think you might be write about why you love it so much, since it's your thing you have to yourself away from your kids one night a week. Hmmm...Maybe if I had kids, I'd love it more. Totally kidding, I know that's the wrong reason to have kids.