A Writer in Training

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In the 1960s competitive swimming took over my life. We only had an outdoor pool, so water training took place during the summer months. That didn’t mean we allowed our fitness to lay idle during the winter. Instead we participated in an intense land programme to maintain our fitness and strength in the months we were out of the water. Our endeavour to become the best competitor possible was a year round commitment.

Writing is the same. We go through the same year round process as any competitive sports person. In order to maintain our writing fitness we need to practice writing, even when we’re not working on something important. Whether this takes the form of blogging, journal writing or merely playing around with words in other ways, we need to keep our brain conditioned to enable it  to serve us well.

And, just like an athlete, we need to warm up before our daily output. While some writers say they can take the plunge and dive straight into a new piece, I wonder if they’ve ever considered how much better their writing may be by doing a little warm-up writing first.

Then, there’s a nutritious diet giving the energy to train and compete. Good writers remember to feed themselves regularly with the written words of others, with good conversation and by getting out and about to experience life away from the computer.

Most athletes have a coach to guide them on their way to success. A writer gathers up trusted friends and other writers, those who understand. These could be blog buddies, writing group buddies or others in the writing and publishing world. All writers need to be told when they’re on the right path and when they’re straying from it.

Finally, athlete’s burn out if they work too hard without rest. Not only do they need to give their muscles time to adapt to new work loads, they also need regular sleep to refresh them from one training session to another. So it is with writers. Too much writing without regular rest and time for recovery can result in stale ideas and lack of enthusiasm.

So come on writers, we’re all athlete’s really and need to make sure we’re on the best training programme we can cope with. What sort of writing programme do you participate in? How do you keep the writer within you conditioned and maintained? Practice may not make perfect but it can certainly make the writing process easier.

Take Hold of Your Nerves and Jump

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This morning I started reading a delightful little book called, “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day”, written by Arnold Bennett in 1910. Sexist? Definitely! But you have to read it aware of the time the words were written. I found this little treasure amongst free books on Amazon and, being the sucker I am for time management books, (most of which advice never gets put into practice), I couldn’t resist grabbing this free read.

I’d only read about a third – it’s only 52 pages – when an appealing little gem of a quote captured my attention.  The  quote can apply to anyone contemplating doing anything, but I think is especially applicable to writers. It reads …

There is no magic method of beginning. If a man standing on the edge of a swimming-bath and wanting to jump into the cold water should ask you, “How do I begin to jump?” you would merely reply, “Just jump. Take hold of your nerves, and jump.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a good idea I wanted to write about and sat staring at the blank screen or page, not knowing how to start. Of course, once I’ve convinced myself I should start writing, ideas flow and as often as not the beginning jumps out at me half way through. If I hadn’t started I’d still be sitting there, like the man wanting to jump into the pool, wondering how to do it.

So, my advice to you all, whether writers or not, when deciding to do something for the first time, don’t worry too much about how to begin. If you’ve decided to do something, be bold, take the plunge and do it.

As Arnold Bennett says, “Take hold of your nerves and jump.”