I’ve never played organized team sports a day in my life (because all those childhood games of kickball in the parking lot of our Ensley apartment complex don’t count). Nonetheless, I am obsessed with the Olympics. Gymnastics, swimming, soccer — I love it all! I’m even excited about fencing this year thanks to Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman who observes hijab to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.
So if you see me within the next few weeks and I look exhausted it’s not because my busy schedule of being a writer, teacher, and entrepreneur has caught up with me. It’s because I’ve been staying up all night watching the Olympic games.
Even though I am not a serious athlete I admire them and I relate to them because of their discipline and drive.
We writers and athletes have a lot in common. We both, if we want to be excellent at what we do, must practice. We must practice even when we don’t feel like. We must practice even when life sucks.
Natalie Goldberg, whom I quote a lot because she’s a genius, also sees the similarities between writers and athletes. In her book Writing Down the Bones she says:
“This is the practice school of writing. Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and deep desire to run. It’ll never happen, especially if you’re out of shape or have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.”
This quote resonates with me in part because I am both a runner and a writer. Trust me, I won’t be in the Olympics anytime soon (or ever), but running is a hobby of mine (I’ve completed two half marathons) and the parallels between writing and running are clear.
So if you want to write like an olympian you need to develop a writing practice.
A Time to Write
First establish the day(s) and time you will write. This needs to be a time when you won’t be bothered by family, friends, or the demands of work. For me, that’s first thing in the morning. I wake up between 4 and 4:30 a.m. six days a week so I can have time to work on blog posts, freelance stories, newsletter content, and more, before I have to get ready for my day job. When will you write? Early in the morning? Late a night? Experiment a bit until you find the time that works best for you.
A Room of One’s Own
You need a special place for writing. I’m fortunate enough to have my own home office where I do most of my writing, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before my husband and I became homeowners last year and we lived in a two-bedroom apartment, I typically wrote at our dining room table. In fact, my husband used to call the dining room See Jane Write headquarters. Sometimes I’d write sitting on the sofa. Even now I sometimes write in the bed or at the kitchen table if I need a change of scenery. Find a place in your home that inspires you. If you have a room of your own, that’s great. But if not, don’t use that as an excuse for not writing. Improvise!
A Purpose-Driven (Writing) Life
Set a goal for each writing session. Perhaps you will write a certain number of words. Maybe you’ll complete a blog post or an article for a freelance gig. Just be sure you are writing on purpose. I decide the goal for my morning writing sessions the night before and I write that task in the “Top Three” section of my planner for that day. If you need help sticking with a writing ritual, try out sites like 750Words.
Be sure to join us over in the free See Jane Write Network Facebook group for encouragement and support. And if you’re struggling with writer’s block, follow me on Twitter @seejavaciawrite for daily writing prompts.