Writing is a lot like getting in shape. Maybe I've been thinking about this because my own fitness journey coincides with my journey as a writer, but let's explore the analogy further.
1. When you want to get fit, your start with a manageable fitness goal (5% of your body weight, or working out twice a week, for example). When you want to write more, you should also set a manageable goal.
Manageable goals have always been hard for me: I want to do it all, right now, and emerge victorious by tomorrow. But when I lost thirty pounds, it wasn't from doing anything instant: it was because I took it slow and steady, rewarded myself for any forward progress, and didn't dwell on the setbacks.
So what is a manageable goal in writing? For me, at this stage in my life, it's manageable for me to write 1000 words a day. They don't have to be 1000 perfect words, or even 1000 very good words: it's important for me to keep my brain in practice every day, even if the words I produce never amount to anything.
2. Exercise is important, but you don't want to become bored with your routine.
In terms of my physical health, I try to mix up my activities: walking, yoga, and core training circulate through my week on a pretty regular schedule. Two of these activities I truly enjoy, which makes it easier to stop whining about the third. If I tried to do cardio for an hour each day, I'd quickly lose interest in that work out regimen (trust me, been there, done that).
Since I have multiple writing projects at various stages, I am able to rotate through them just like my exercise. I write every day, but some days I will also spend an hour revising a draft. Other days, I may outline a new idea. Sometimes, I don't do anything but write, but I switch genres: if I'm tired of my novel, I may journal for a thousand words. Poetry is a nice outlet, too: my writing muscles get worked in different ways with each aspect of the craft of writing.
3. Hard work pays off...slowly.
Losing weight wasn't easy, but I did it. Changing my health habits wasn't easy, but I feel better now in my body, and I am glad that I put in the work to get here.
The same goes for writing. Even if the results aren't immediate, I can trace my successes to the level of time and energy I've put into the craft of writing. It's a long, slow process, but if you stick with it, you will see results.
How do you keep your writing muscles flexed? What routines work for you, and where have you fallen into a mental fitness rut?