While I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, I never joined a gym until a year ago. I probably wouldn’t have either except that I have easy access as an Instructional Designer at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Regina–the first workplace I’ve had with this perk. And this year, I also got a gym membership Power Pump class to add to my weekly routine.
Does having a gym make a difference? Of course! Up until now I’ve favored brisk walking as my main form of exercise, but now with the gym I’ve added things like weights and rowing and more cardio workouts. I’m stronger. I have more endurance.
The toughest has been the bicycle (I never learned to ride a bike as a child and failed miserably when I attempted it when my kids were small). When I started, I could barely make five minutes on the bike in 8th gear. My muscles burned and my legs screamed.
I soon discovered it was easier if I focused on something besides pushing those darn pedals and started visiting with other gym members.
Pretty soon I realized I could get my mile in faster by increasing the gears. I could drive right through those other racers on the digital track with me and beat them! It was harder, but I got stronger. Then, I upped my bike time up to two miles, and worked the gears up to #18. I was flying along the course!
It eventually occurred to me that the others I was pedaling with preferred the easy miles. They never changed gears at all. Never upped the challenge. Were content to maintain the status quo. I could do my two miles in the time they were still doing one.
And that’s when I had the epiphany.
As writers, maintaining the status quo really only gets you so far. Without pushing harder–taking challenges–our writing can only get to a certain point.
Back when I used to teach for the Institute of Children’s Literature, I had many beginning writers who told me how they felt they were natural writers, had been born with the “gift” so to speak. And that’s true. Some of us find it easier to gather our ideas and thoughts and put them into words on paper. Others can come up with original ideas at the drop of a hat.
You could say we’re mostly all born naturals at pedaling that bicycle at the gym too.
Students often felt disillusioned when I sent back edits on their work and suggestions for improvement. They’d come to class, not to learn how to write better, but for me to tell them they were born writers and to submit their work to Publisher X to start their million-dollar careers.
But all writers, just like everyone that gets on those bicycles, have to push and train those muscles to get better. It takes practice, tons of it. Maintaining the status quo may be the easy way to participate, but the most rewards come from the hardest work.
Putting your work out on the Web, listening to feedback, whether it’s comments on a blog post or stars on your e-book, will help you take your natural talents and make them even better. Give it a try.
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