Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fitness, Mental and Physical

Went to the Magic City Writers group meeting last night, and the critique (not of my work this time, we rotate) was a bit more contentious than it's been in the past. Here's hoping it settles down for next time!

Tonight, in addition to (at long last) work on getting Darwin Colossus suitable for Beta Reader perusal, I'll be heading to the gym. I've been an avid follower of Tim Ferris's 4 Hour Body program, and it's worked well for me, both in terms of adding muscle mass, and reducing the relative stoutness of my tum. After the chaos of the past few months, Amy and I have returned to an exercise program, and we're flourishing for it.

Not coincidentally, I find it much easier to write (and to write well) when I'm doing a better job of taking care of my body. Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing podcast fame did a pair of episodes on the subject of staying healthy lately, and her advice is good--I highly recommend it.

I think there's something that needs saying on the subject of writerly mental health, too. Not just in the staying-out-of-the-rubber-room sense (important though that is), but in the sense of regulating one's input, one's "diet." One of the maxims of writing is that you have to do a lot of reading as well. Any writer planning on getting published needs to be familiar with the big authors, both historical and up-and-coming, in one's genre. Read a lot, and read widely. For that matter, listen to podcasts like I Should Be Writing and Writing Excuses regularly. Good advice I've heard is that for every hour you spend writing a day, you should try to spend at least an hour reading. You want to know the material you'll be both compared to and competing with, know the trends, know the tricks of the trade, and get a feel for what consumers of your product (because that's what it is, after all, if publishing is the goal) are expecting and demanding.

Another part of writerly head-health is attitude. As an example, it took me a long (long) time to get over my posture of scarcity toward my own work: "This is my Magnum Opus, my only golden perfect snowflake of an idea. If I screw it up, I'll never have another chance." The Writing Excuses guys, as well as just growing older and perhaps a little wiser, helped me through this, and now writing isn't nearly the angst-ridden chore that it used to be. Amy noticed (me sitting down to write used to herald great tension and grief in the house, which didn't give her or me much incentive to encourage it), and my output has improved hugely, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. An attitude of plenty ("I'm learning more and getting better at this all the time, and I've got great ideas spilling out of my head") has made all the difference.

Strive for health: the image of the starving, alcohol-addled writer suffering for his work in a garret may be romantic, but it's a hellacious way to make a living.


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