How to train for your writing marathon.

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Writing is about endurance. Especially writing a novel.

But unlike a marathon run, a marathon write means you'll be sitting for hours at your desk.

We all know now that sitting is the new smoking. It'll kill you!

When you're sitting for hours, hunched over, lost in the depths of a fictional world, it's easy to forget that your body is part of the real world. This is not good for your body or your mind.


Writing is a physical activity, too.

 

How to train for your writing marathon:

1. Dance: Do not underestimate the power of a dance break. These should be a mandatory part of your writing day: your neck and shoulders need to move! Plus, the energy of one particular song or album can be part of your writing habit/reward system. Think of it this way: you get to pick a soundtrack for your book. The music you dance to every day will become the signature song for your novel, and it will cue the energy you need for writing it. Music is fuel: use it.


2. Work out: Jillian Michaels is my holographic trainer. I hang out with this woman every day, for about 20 - 40 minutes a day. Her workouts are so difficult, I lose my mind. Which is a very good thing, because otherwise, I'd be in my head 100% the time. By the time my mind returns to me, post-shower, about 30 minutes after my workout, I feel clearer and more focused, ready to write, without second-guessing myself or listening to my inner critic.


3. Walk: Go for a walk every day. Go outside. Start your day with a walk — let the rhythm of your stride embolden your thoughts. Daydreaming, otherwise known as "writing while walking," is one of the most effective ways to get past scene blocks and writing questions. Don't try to think it out, walk it out.


4. Yoga: It makes you breathe, it makes you slow down, and it shows you who you really are. You want to be who you really are when you write, and yoga is your mirror. For an excellent book on writing and breathing, including exercises you can do while you work, read this by Laraine Herring. To learn yoga poses that will help you with writing pitfalls, read this by Jeff Davis. If you can get to a class once a week, great. If you can do a little practice daily during your writing marathon, even better.

Remember: your mind and your body are not separable.

Writers are very good at working with their minds and giving time to their thoughts. But we often need a firm nudge (or, like, a big push) to get us to use our bodies.

Give your body a chance to be a body!

You aren't just a big brain on a stick: you're a whole embodied creature. When you're writing, try to use your mind and body together. Involve your body when you write, so you can access your senses properly. What is it like to chew spearmint gum, to pick up a squirming child, to step on a wooden deck with your bare feet? How would you know these things without your lovely body?

ONJHere's your firm nudge: use your body every day. I mean, work it. Love it. Olivia Newton John it.

As you spend more time in your head, try to amp up the time you spend in your body.

Shake it. Dance. Lift heavy things. Make your heart race. Sweat. Run fast. Jump over things.

Not only will exercise heighten your senses (you'll see and hear more clearly, things will taste better, etc.), but the delicious mix of hormones that comes from exercise will assist you when you sit down to work: endorphins, dopamine, seratonin. This helps make writing feel FUN.

You'll also get a testosterone boost, which I'm convinced is the decision maker. Use it when you need to be brave and decisive. This will help you put your characters in very difficult and dramatic situations, and trust that you can write them out of there.

(And if you are one of the crazy beautiful people who is going to do NaNoWriMo - Good luck!)

Now go.

I'll see you at the finish line, sweaty and happy.

xo,

Sarah Selecky    


ps. I was recently interviewed by Ann Douglas for her Happy Writer radio series! You can download the episode here. Scroll down to episode #3, "The S Word", to have a listen.  

Photo credit (top): Nathan Watson on Unsplash.


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9 comments

Lindsay Edmunds

Excellent post -- it is all true. I walk about 3 miles every day, and get a therapeutic massage every four weeks, and am a better writer and person because of these things.
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and when all else fails: set that timer on your iPhone for 30 minutes, and when it goes off, get up and go do something!
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Thanks so much!!! I'll be playing music when I'm on the computer. I may even type faster!!! We'll see. Hugs, Darlene
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I am smiling and nodding in agreement while reading this post. I always have the biggest trouble listening to what my body needs, instead I will choose to listen to what my taste buds crave and end up fueling my body with refined sugar treats just to make myself crashed half an hour later. Great post Sarah - well needed insight for all the writers out there :)
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Maureen Henderson

Such wise words, and awesome timing in my case. I've been fighting off neck and back stuff for quite a while, knowing exercise would do me good, and thinking I'd get to the gym as soon as my writing practice was solid. It can't be solid if I'm distracted by pain. This post is just what I needed, thanks! (Sarah, I'm wondering: do you use Jillian's dvds, or subscribe to her online program, use the app...?)
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Love this :)
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Elle Flythe

Today I danced for one song every 30 mins during my writing practice. My body feels much better than it usually does at the end of the day, and being bold in my writing was easier, too. Probably because once your neighbors see you break it down, down, down to Sheila E's "The Glamorous Life" (the 9min extended cut!) writing those bad first draft sentences doesn't seem so painful.
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So true - didn't Wordsworth compose some of his poetry as he walked? Admittedly in a beautiful part of the world too. I agree with your idea of 'walking it out' - I also swim and jog in a mindless way, just to let my thoughts 'free fall'. Great way of sorting out problems with plot. In a class last year we tried the music idea - find a piece of music and write about a strong emotion. It worked for me. Not had a go at the dancing yet but that sounds great. Just need to have my coffee first! Ali
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Sarah Selecky

Hi Maureen! I use Jillian's DVDs. I have all of them, but recently have been digging the kickboxing one. :)
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