Push-ups. Sit-ups. Jogging. Crunches. Ugh. Most of us shudder at the thought. I know I do. Not that I don’t admire those who can persevere with a goal or training program. Two of my sons trained long hours every day to achieve wonderful results in gymnastics including positions on state teams and one competed forAustralia in New Zealand. Me, I just like a good walk.
But what has this got to do with writing? Forgive me, I take a while to get to the point and I’m a mother; why miss an opportunity to mention my boys! But it was relevant…in order to achieve success in the sporting field one needs to train regularly sometimes repeating monotonous exercises on a daily basis. The main event, whether it is a gymnastics competition, a game or a race occurs less frequently and is the culmination of all that training. And hopefully with a satisfying outcome.
I often hear writers complain that their muse has flown and they simply cannot write. How do I get it back? they ask. I suggest they approach writing in a similar way to a sportsperson preparing for a race or event. Not all your writing will be worthy of submitting to a publication or entering in a competition. Some of it is just training…pushing-up, sitting-up and crunching your writing skills, jogging your muse back into action, ready for that poem, short story or article that you sit back and read, then sigh with satisfaction knowing it is a personal best.
When asked to write for a set time in a writing group or workshop I used to worry if my offering was less than the standard I set for myself. Especially when I heard some of the other participants read their work. How often have you heard someone say before reading… ‘Oh, it’s not quite right. I couldn’t…’ ? How often have you said or thought it yourself, perhaps even refraining from taking your turn at reading? Similarly at home, sometimes even the best ideas just don’t come together, leaving you disappointed and sapping your confidence. A runner has to run thousands of kilometres before shaving a fraction of a second from a race time, a gymnast tumbles hundreds of times before perfecting his or her routine and sometimes we need to write pages and pages before we achieve our magnum opus.
Occasionally we are hit with a brilliant flash of inspiration, a piece that almost writes itself but rather than sit back and wait for the next one, try exercising your writing. Just write…anything and everything and you just might be surprised to find your muse in the middle of it all. Sometimes the most insignificant piece will lead to another idea but even if it doesn’t you are honing your talent and preparing for the big one.
And best of all, no need to sweat. Go and make yourself a nice hot cup of tea or coffee, ignore the housework…you’re in training! Bring on the Writing Olympics.