Some days I’d rather sip lattes than write.
The motivation to write is not always there. So how do some writers like Sean Kernan gain so much traction so fast? They think about writing in a different way. Writing is a workout for their mind.
Each writing activity is a different exercise targeting a different muscle group.
- Writing trains your biceps
- Editing trains your back
- Choosing cover images trains your shoulders
- Choosing headlines works your abs
- Pitching publications trains your legs
The number of stories you write is the “reps.”
You do each of these writing activities over and over to build each muscle. If you only train one muscle then you’ll be weak in another area of your writing.
You have to train each muscle, ideally on different days, so you don’t burnout trying to train your whole body.
Word count is your heart rate.
As you write more your word count increases, thus your ability to use your editing muscle to edit down your work later must get stronger so you’re not making people read a 90-minute story that rants about a flower box you saw.
You keep the heart rate of your work beating by keeping your word count up.
The number of times you write is your gym membership.
Do you let your gym membership lapse? Hell no. You keep building your muscle by showing up to the gym and paying your membership on time.
This means you want to make writing a habit that is scheduled in your diary and has a deadline at the end of your session.
Spontaneous writing belongs in books about fantasy lands.
Do your workout every week.
2 times per week is optimal.
Daily = huge writing muscles.
The level of vulnerability you use is the weight you lift in pounds.
At the gym you lift weight and try to beat how much you lifted yesterday. With writing the aim is to increase your level of vulnerability. Vulnerability feels like lifting enormous weights. You feel fearful when you hit publish.
If you’re not afraid to hit publish then up the weights. See if you can lift heavier weights and let your ego stop being a handicap.
Your brain will be exhausted at the end of your workout.
After a good workout you’re exhausted. You’ve let all the emotion, pain, wisdom and energy out of your mind, and placed it on the page for readers to read. The next thing you do is rest.
Your writing muscles won’t grow without rest.
Rest looks like taking your mind off writing.
Reading books is the recovery protein shake you take to help your muscles grow while you rest for the next workout. Writing short posts on social media are the boost amino acids give you when you come back to the gym.
You have to workout a lot because quality is subjective.
This is a great debate amongst writers. I believe that one-off workouts, every now and then, is for chumps. You won’t get anywhere.
You’ll go and chase a book deal. You’ll look for the one-time success of your first book becoming a New York Times Bestseller. You’ll expect a viral blog post, or a major publication like Forbes to pay you for the workouts you do, after the first three sets.
The truth is nobody knows what your best writing is. You can’t predict viral or popular. I have been able to predict the success of fellow writers like Sean Kernan based on their workouts.
If a writer is going to the gym, working out a lot, doing the reps, changing exercises, targeting different muscle groups and not trying to be Arnie Schwarzenegger with their ego, they’ll crush it… quickly.
After the workout comes the battle arena.
*Queues Gladiator Movie Soundtrack*
What comes after the workout is the battle arena where you hit publish and get your pretty little face beaten up.
The battle arena is where you will face the harsh critics, the people who cheer for you, the other writers who might envy you, the high school bullies who still want to kick your ass, and the bad bosses who think they can control what you write.
You can’t stay in the comfort of the gym in draft mode. Publishing is where shit gets real. It’s where your personality, thoughts, ideas and view of the world are tested. The key to the battle arena is to disconnect from the result.
Sometimes you will win in triumph glory as a writer. Other times you’ll enter the battle arena and an online troll will swing an ax at your face and leave you bloody and beaten. You get back up. You hit publish again.
You will face your own demons in the battle arena
Your negative thoughts about your writing are your demons.
Your thoughts that tell you to shut up or make you feel like you’re not good enough to have a voice.
Your own demons often can’t be beaten with brute force or your writing muscles. You beat your demons by working on yourself, not your muscles.
This is the part of your writing fitness where you believe in yourself and what you have to say, where you conquer those negative thoughts and win the fight. It’s a simple idea: everything is going to be okay.
You will write something stupid or drop a dumbbell on your foot in front of the good-looking person who is reading your writing. Take it from a skinny guy who enters the gym and causes eyes to roll with thoughts of “damn you need a workout bro.”
Mistakes are a given. Winning is an endurance test. How many years can you write and not give up? That’s the real test, and you can pass it and feel the power of victory as a writer by helping strangers with their problems or changing how they think about something.
Writing can change your life when you compare it to working out in the gym. You build muscle by working out. You become a writer who gains traction really fast by writing a lot and putting in the work.
Write like you’re going to the gym to workout. Do the reps with a smile.