Four Ways to Bulk Up Those Writing Muscles

Fitness. For Writers.

Fitness. For Writers.

Day one of returning to my novel after a three-week hiatus. I can’t wait. No excuses. Novel-writing is ON.

This is how the day goes.

8:30 a.m. Hit the snooze button one last time.

9:00 a.m. Ooh, breakfast time.

10:00 a.m. Sign up for dubious offer in email inbox.

10:15 a.m. See that friends got published. Have to give them shout-outs on Facebook. This is platform building, right?

10:30 a.m. Cancel subscription to dubious offer in email inbox.

10:45 a.m. Respond to invite to potluck. Look up possible recipes on Refinery29.

11:00 a.m. Can’t sit in my PJs all day. Gross. Must shower.

12:00 noon Ooh, lunch time.

1:00 p.m. Definitely getting to novel now. Crack open Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway for inspiration. Get inspired for this blog.

1:15 p.m. Check out three other blogs to compare notes. This is researching the competition and whatnot.

1:30 p.m. OK, back to reading Burroway.

1:45 p.m. Why am I reading Burroway? I know this stuff. I just need to write.

1:50 p.m. Open novel folder on computer. Rearrange desktop to prioritize novel folder.

2:00 p.m. Zzzzz

3:00 p.m. Whoa, did I really fall asleep? And why am I so hungry? No time to cook, obviously, must get on with this novel-writing thing. I’ll just grab a pear from the fridge.

3:05 p.m. Can’t write AND eat, so no harm in checking on news. And “Underrated and Overrated Trends in SF.” And why is there a picture of Emily Blunt looking like a queen? Ooh, how did that couple make it work in their 300-square-foot apartment?

3:15 p.m. Clearly, these discoveries must be blogged.

3:35 p.m. Hands are still sticky from eaten pear. Wash hands, then get to novel.

I did finally get to my novel. About a half hour later. I worked for about 1.5 hours and then I was exhausted, like I’d run a marathon even though I’d barely shifted in my seat. And yet, this almost always happens when I try to get back into this project after some time apart. The next day turned out a lot smoother. And the day after, even more so. Which got me thinking of the first time I tried to jog. I had my new New Balance shoes. My rousing playlist. And 5 minutes into the run, my lungs were begging for a quick death. Later, my runner friends told me this was normal for beginners. You have to build up your strength and stamina. Oh yeah, that.

It turns out, the same holds true for novel-writing. Want to flex those writerly guns?

1. Mentally prepare
Accept that starting or returning to your novel will drain every ounce of energy from you. Beginning marathon runners pre-train before they even start to train. Think like an athlete and mentally prepare for game day. Visualize how your brilliant novel-writing day will go. Zen out.

2. Fuel up!
Do not underestimate the power of coffee. Or kale smoothies. Or whatever revs you up and gets you focused. My body would probably be happier with me if I were so healthy. But it runs just fine on ice-cold coke zero and mixed nuts. Maybe your power source is music. Or working in a cafe with a friend. Or, as my friend and writer Shruti Swamy says, a word diet of Michael Ondaatje novels. Or taking a class. Whatever it is, honor the energy needs of your body and mind.

3. Don’t let the trail go cold
You know how in detective stories they say that the chances of finding a missing person after 48 hours gets cut in half? The same could be said about your novel. With the day job, happy hours with friends, dropping kids off at ballet, the latest episode of Orange is the New Black, laundry, or getting a half-decent meal on the table, it’s easy to justify putting off the novel for just another day. Don’t. The longer you stay away from it, the further it will stray from you until, one day, it will be the proverbial missing person. Show your novel some love. Stalk it.

4. Think like Tortoise: Slow and Steady Trumps Speed
It may seem like there are a zillion steps from first draft to shiny published product. But that means that any step you take moves you toward the finishing line. Remember Aesop’s fable about the Tortoise and Hare and be like Tortoise if you need to. Don’t diminish the importance of that step, however fumbling, slow or small. Stories are built on a foundation of 26 letters of the alphabet, rearranged. No letter, word or effort is wasted. Let what you write at any given time be enough.


About Mei Li Ooi

Writer. Editor. Diet Rebel.


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