The Boot Camp Approach to Writing Discipline

What if, instead of butt in the chair, trusty cup of coffee, perfect space and muse perched above your laptop while you sit for a specific amount of time writing your novel, you take on multiple challenges simultaneously and get your butt kicked? In a good way.

Shoehorning everyone into that old-school scenario no longer works for most of us in today’s short-attention-span culture. That’s why I’m using the cross fit/boot camp/functional fitness method of writing practice.

In my physical workouts, we never do the same thing twice. We don’t concentrate on one muscle for sustained periods, slowly repeating the same movements. We repeat, but almost always at a rapid pace. We get our heart rates up, rest, and keep going until we can’t anymore. We go through lots of different activities in different sequences to keep our minds engaged as well as our bodies. We have to count. Sometimes we work with a partner or a team and sometimes we’re on our own, at our own pace. We get tips on how to feed our muscles through good nutrition, and coaches offer motivational advice. We don’t know what to expect on any given day, but we know it will kick our butts and will be well worth it.

How it translates to my writing practice

This morning, I checked FB, email and Twitter, and honed in on a couple of blogs. One gave me ideas for a creative process to give my writing a boost and a branding site helped me with a strategy for publishing my book. I wrote a scene in one of the novels I’m working on and edited a chapter in another. I wrote a review of a friend’s book on Amazon and commented on a blog post by another. I wrote this blog. After that, my brain turned to jelly so I stopped.

With this method, I work hard and produce results without burning out on one project while neglecting others. I’m constantly getting new ideas and am stimulated to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.

There’s more than one way to work those writing muscles, and for me, surprising myself is what makes it fun. What works for you?

Lesson Learned

This morning I didn’t want to get up for my 5 a.m. fitness session. I whined to myself about sore knees and arms and my favorite excuse, “I’m not young; I need extra time to recover from strenuous workouts.”

I’d signed up for three sessions a week and hadn’t missed any so I decided to show up. But I wouldn’t give it 100%.

Once I was surrounded by a roomful of motivated women and a white board filled with sit ups, pull ups, pushups, squats, etc., to complete, I forgot about the aches and got down to business.

Sixty minutes later on the drive home, I felt satisfied that I’d given my all and was proud of the progress I’ve made since beginning the workouts a few months ago. Every muscle in my body has gotten stronger and that means I can do more of everything I love. I have more energy throughout the day and I’m healthier. A huge payoff.

What does this have to do with writing? I thought, why not give my writing activities the same effort and commitment? Why not push it farther than I thought I could go? And, most importantly, why not do it without all the whining?

Lesson learned?

Sometimes you can surprise yourself by just showing up. Something extra might kick in and you’ll end up giving 100%.

Doing push ups in Half Moon Bay, CA

Doing push ups in Half Moon Bay, CA

The Universe is Speaking

I’ve learned to pay attention when the universe knocks on my door. Admittedly, in the past, I have let multiple hints slip right by me until something drastic comes along to jolt me out of my fog.

This time the messages started with a notebook from the bins inside Target’s front entrance. I picked up one with Yoda on the front.  A conversation bubble above his head said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

I put it in my cart.

Yesterday I attended a cold wax workshop by Sara Post, a wonderful encaustic artist from Davis, CA. In addition to a demonstration on technique, she offered this advice: “If you’re going to do it, do it very.” Artists are always concerned about pushing too far and ruining a piece. I loved this advice.

This morning at my women’s Kaia workout, the message on the board said, “Committing to 99% is brutal; 100% is easier.”  If you think 99% is a good enough goal for workout, nutrition, intentions, etc., then you’ve opened the door to eroding away your resolve. That makes it harder.  I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog. Today his advice was that showing up isn’t enough.  To paraphrase: “Your job is to surprise and delight and change the agenda, escalate, and reset expectations.”

How do all these signs relate to my writing?

My mystery novel is finished. It’s been revised, reviewed and polished. Of course, I could work on it forever, but that doesn’t get it out the door. I’ve been researching agents and sending out queries, but I’m still on the fence about whether self-publishing is a better way to go.

I think the universe is saying:  Do it very. Give 100% and you will surprise and delight yourself.

Do you listen when the universe speaks to you?


Confuse Your Writing Muscles

I’ve been attending Kaia F.I.T., a women’s exercise program three mornings a week and am now on my fifth week. The philosophy is to confuse the muscles for improved strength and tone. You won’t find giant exercise machines jammed into the room. Sometimes we work with jump ropes or resistance bands or kettlebells or even huge tires. We run, do lunges, sit ups, squats, pushups and all variations of body work, sometimes individually, or with partners, and we often move from station to station, constantly changing from one type of exercise to another. The sessions work our brains as well, keeping track of variations in sequences and repetitions. Afterward, my body aches and yet I feel great because I’ve done something I didn’t know I could do. And I’m getting stronger every day.

What does a woman’s exercise program have to do with a blog about writing? I wondered what would happen if I applied the same philosophy to confuse my writing muscles.

Writers are advised to stick to a writing routine and never let anything deter us. But what if we mix it up and create a writing schedule that changes direction at intervals? I’m going to try it for one week and see what happens.

For example:

  • If you always journal in longhand at 7 am, head to the laptop and do a prompt or write a nonfiction piece
  • If you’re working on memoir, mystery, romance, literary, sci fi, historical, or poetry, do something entirely different like postcard fiction or flash fiction for twenty minutes
  • If you always write alone, call a friend to write with you
  • If you don’t have any writing friends, join a group
  • If you’re in a group, go on hiatus
  • If you write at a desk, take your laptop to the sofa or stand at a counter
  • If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo before, do it. You can start anytime

After a week, check in with yourself. Have you stretched your writing muscles? Are they a little rusty from disuse? Does it feel good to surprise yourself?

In the effort of full disclosure, I can’t take credit for jumping into a rigorous exercise routine all on my own. My daughter talked about how much fun it was and how all ages of women were involved. She encouraged me and invited me to a couple of tryout sessions, and when I was discouraged, she told me everyone had a hard time at first and that I was doing great and she was proud of me.

And that brings me to my last suggestion for today’s blog. If you don’t have someone in your life who pushes you a little, encourages you and believes in you, find someone like that or be that person for yourself.  Now get out there and get confused!