Posts Tagged ‘exercise’


When I finished my first novel, I couldn’t wait to take a long-awaited and well deserved break. My intention was to take a week or two off and then begin the second one. Because the second book was co-written with a good friend who is disciplined and knows how the writing process works, I didn’t have the luxury of letting too much time slip by before getting back up on the horse. After the second one was finished however, it was a different story. My third book, which was supposed to have begun in May, didn’t get started until late August. Now it is mid-October and I am all of seven (and a half) pages into it.

I could blame this inactivity on a dozen various external sources: I moved, started a new job, I was busy revising the previous book… the list could go on. But the truth is, I’ve let the priority of writing slip into second (or third) place. The reason for this is simple: I am sick of writing! But, I am also sick of combing my hair, eating, going to bed on time, getting up for work, brushing my teeth, and shaving that godforsaken unibrow of mine that just refuses to admit defeat. But I do these things anyway. I do them, regardless of my mood, because when I don’t, I’m not happy, and the same could be said about writing. When I am not writing, I am not happy. So, with this newfound reality check, I decide to put myself in the chair, and just write… whether I feel like it or not. And… an amazing thing happens. Nothing.

The trouble with taking too much time off is that the creative muscle, just like any other muscle in the body, will atrophy with disuse, and be strengthened the more it is exercised. After four months of literary lethargy, I’m having a hard time finding anything to say. The bad news is, this is a form of writer’s block. The good news is, there are a million different ways to combat it. Listed below are the exercises I’ve successfully used in the past to strengthen my writing muscles, and as soon as I am finished writing this blog, I will begin to incorporate some of them, and get my own writing back on track. Also, I hope these suggestions help you build your writing muscles! Grrrr….

1. Read something. One of the most effective things I’ve done when I am faced with the perpetual blank page is read. It doesn’t seem to matter what I read, but a good thirty to ninety minutes of reading something usually gets my mind working in a more creative way.

2. Get some exercise. I don’t know how or why this helps writing, or if it applies to other people at all, but for me, getting some good, strenuous exercise seems to release those mysterious “endorphins” everyone’s always talking about, and gives me the extra push I need.

3. Write something else. Sometimes, I just need to write something totally unrelated to the story I am working on. This is where having a blog comes in handy. I might also write someone a letter, or a long e-mail, or write some new poetry.

4. Reread the story. This one is a tricky one and it wouldn’t be at the top of my list of things to do, but a lot of times, rereading the story I  am working on inspires me to go on with it. There have been times though, that this exercise has resulted in the opposite effect.

5. Pry, spy, and lie. As a natural-born busybody, this one is probably my favorite. I take a pen and paper and go somewhere and find someone (or several people) who strike my interest for some reason or another. I give them new names, new jobs, a brand new past, and if I am cranky, a life-threatening illness. I cast them into a make-believe present situation, usually something very critical and/or scandalous, and ponder the different ways they might handle it.

6. Try something new. As simple as it sounds, there’s something to be said for doing something you’ve never done before, tasting something you’ve never tasted, going somewhere you’ve never been, or talking to someone you’ve never met.

7. Get involved in your local writing community. Wherever you might live, chances are good that you share your space with a few or a few hundred like-minded folks who are part of a local writing community. Getting involved means meeting other people who have fresh ideas. It means submerging yourself in the world of writing and bringing it to the forefront of your mind. It means learning new skills, meeting with new opportunities, and finding new inspiration.

8. Join, or start, a critique group. When you’re part of a critique group, it’s hard to not write. You have a sense of expectation from yourself, and the other members are depending on you to keep the group going.

9. Assign the time. By assigning yourself a certain time of day to write for a specific duration, you are training yourself to respond accordingly. If you know you have to sit down and write Monday though Friday from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm, it’s just a matter of time before your mind starts to accept its duties. If you don’t know what to write for that half hour, start out by writing about not knowing what to write.

10. Interview the characters. Another one of my favorites, interviewing my characters almost always leads to some kind of revelation about the character or the story he or she is in, and makes me eager to write it all out. To interview the characters, I sit down at the computer and write out a kind of questions and answers game. This exercise is both fun and effective.

These are just a few stars in the endless galaxy of different ways to strengthen your own writing. Whether you’re blocked or just trying to get a little better at your craft, there is no end to the ways you can invigorate and improve your creative writing.

There are many books written on this subject that I would highly recommend to anyone. Among my favorites are: The Writer’s Block by Jason Rekulak, The Pocket Muse – Ideas & Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias, and Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich.

However you choose to boost and strengthen your own writing, it’s my opinion that it should be fun, and finding all the different methods that will work for you is a big part of that fun. Remember that in writing, what works for one person may not work for the other, and keep in mind that writing exercises can fast become the perfect excuse to get no actual writing done, but if you are sincerely dedicated to writing, there are hundreds upon hundreds of ways to go from this:

To this!

Happy writing!

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      There is no time to write. If the past six months of my life have taught me anything, that’s it. Today is the first day in a very long time that I have had all to myself. The plan was very simple: wake up, shower, write. I have no other responsibilities today, so it seemed a perfectly plausible idea. So plausible, in fact, that I put off writing earlier this week because I was so certain I would have all the time I needed to do it today. That was my first mistake.

     No sooner had I lifted my head from the pillow than my phone began ringing, my doorbell chiming, and the unforeseen duties began piling up. I spent the day arguing on the phone, making plans, breaking plans, texting the information back and forth between the concerned parties, changing reservations, making amends, and then turning around and changing everything back to the way it had originally been planned in the first place. All the while, chapter nineteen of the book I am currently working on is sitting still, waiting for me to get around to it.

     I have been on chapter nineteen for about a month now, I think. I just haven’t had time to write. I am in the middle of an out-of-state move. I have a new person living with me temporarily. I will begin babysitting my nephew full-time next week. I’ve been cleaning the house inside and out to keep it in pristine condition for open houses and interested buyers. I am full of shit.

     The reason the writing is not getting done is because I haven’t been making it happen. Life is life and it goes on with or without us. The “I just don’t have the time to write” excuse is a crutch I swore I’d never lean on, and up until now, I have done a pretty good job avoiding it. I avoided that excuse so well, in fact, that I didn’t even realize I was using it until today.  Yes, my life is a mess right now. Everything is up in the air and I am juggling too many things to keep track of. My life is a whole different story from one day to the next right now. Aren’t these pretty good reasons not to write?

     The answer, sadly, is no. In truth, this is the best time to be writing. Writing focuses me, brings me peace of mind and allows me to express myself explicitly without apology. Right now, more than ever, I should be writing. I have taken too many breaks from it and they have lasted too long. My goal was to have this project finished by July 15, 2011. I don’t know if that will happen or not but I am going to keep trying for it. The book I’m working on now is a collaborative effort with Kim Williams-Justesen, author of the Hey Ranger! books, My Brother the Dog, and co-author of Love and Loathing. Kim has been waiting on me for some time now, as we’re writing alternating chapters and she can not get very far ahead without me. I have been using the world-famous “I don’t have time” excuse for several weeks now and it’s time to put that mindset to a quick death before it gains enough momentum to become a habit.

     There is no time to write, it’s true. There’s also no time to grocery shop, pay bills, raise kids, maintain a full-time job, exercise, eat right, have pets, do dishes, read books, or floss those hard-to-reach teeth that always manage to attract the attention of those wayward, stubborn popcorn kernels.

        When I finished my first book, Kim bought me a very nice silver pocket watch as gift. In that book, there’s a pocket watch that has symbolic meaning to the story, and I know that Kim meant it as a reminder of my accomplishment and about how important my writing is to me. While it will still serve that purpose, I am, as of today, assigning it an additional meaning: I will keep that watch with me to remind me that time can not be created, it can not be destroyed, and it can not be otherwise controlled. But it can be managed.

     Twenty-four hours is all we have. I do not have less or more time than you, and you do not have less or more time than me. I bought into the excuse of just not having any time, and as a result, my self-respect took a hefty blow to the solar plexus. It won’t happen again.