To call back to a previous post of mine about why I love lifting weights, I wish to elaborate on the subject. Dipping into physical activity can coach artists (writers) to become better at our craft.
Gaining muscle from weight lifting is not a laconic process. In a world where immediate gratification is something today’s youth have grown up expecting, at least in the United States and similar countries, understanding what it takes to work hard for many years is hard to come by. That, besides gaining size and confidence in my body, is what lifting teaches me, trains me to value. It is why I have come to realize it directly compliments my aspirations of becoming a full time writer.
Writing is not something that happens overnight. The premium, polished tome that consumed your life and concentration for a given time does not appear on your desk or in an agent’s mailbox without serious dedication and persistence. Neither does building muscle. To create something truly worthwhile, something you leave behind, should be given one-hundred percent of your effort. If you don’t come to the desk or bench with your fullest attention, or at least try, then why spend so much time only to half-ass it? There will be moments when you sit down and try and try and try but nothing clicks. It’s happened to me. So be it. Maybe you need to take a break that day, but come back at it the next time with renewed vigor. I tell myself sometimes during a set or while editing, “don’t cheat yourself. You’re not doing anything but prolonging progress.” Don’t cheat yourself. Don’t half-ass. If you truly care about your craft, and you’ll know deep down if you do, you won’t want to “half-rep” it. Story deserves more.
We are masters of the word, wielders of thunderous imagination. We can create worlds off simple ideas and shape characters that people will relate and care about. But it does not happen with the snap of fingers. It is a tentative process. You must tear at your words to make room for new, better ones. You must feed your imagination with what is around you, your pondering and interpretation of experiences. You must admire what you have done, be satisfied momentarily, and know you are not finished. Just as in writing, when I train, I rip my muscles to make room for stronger, bigger ones. I feed myself to nurture and heal. And, of course, I admire my work, momentarily. Then I get right back to the attack.
I am in my fourth year of weight training. My freshman year, I was not as cut as I am now. But even when I hear my friends tell me how much I’ve grown, I am still not satisfied. Building muscle, getting ripped, is a seemingly never ending process, and that’s okay. There should, ideally, always be room for improvement. Knowing when to stop, when you are satisfied with how much have accomplished takes more courage and resolve than most things in this world. How does one know when to stop making gains? That, of course, is up to the individual. I understand gaining muscle is a little different than getting published because writing has a finite end. When the book is on shelves and in the hands of readers the job is done. We can hope. However, I must admit I’m not sure I could keep myself from wanting to make edits when I do look back at my published work.
We are perfectionists. It’s maddening. But for me, partnering writing with lifting helps me understand the gradual process of nurturing a story to life. And I love how long it takes. Being able to watch every moment of my writing and body’s growth into something far better than when it started out is more rewarding than all the doubt experienced during the process.
I invite you writers and athletes alike, to think about how you tackle your respective goals, and how you can pair them with something that will teach you polar opposite things can actually work together for mutual benefits.