Don't use it? You'll lose it.
This is most commonly said to those who want to stay in shape physically. That's right. You'd better exercise if you don't want to lose your muscle tone and your fabulous figure!
The same thing goes for writing. If you want to retain your razor sharp skills and continue to excel in your field, you need to stay in the zone. Keep exercising. Don't get lazy. Keep up the good work! Exercising your skill set is the only way to keep your creative muscles healthy. But like all good exercise routines, it's best to begin with the basics. You don't want to sprain something, right? Especially if that something happens to be your brain.
Here is a list of basic, awesome exercises that are perfect for both the professional writer and the brand new beginner.
- Go the distance. I don't care how long you've been writing and how many books you've sold, it's always helpful to have a set word count. Sometimes, life makes it difficult to write creatively (catching the flu, anyone?), so it's handy to know when your cutoff point is. If you're a slower paced writer, give yourself a 500 word count goal every day. If you write faster, then you can raise that count. It depends on who you are as a writer. My point is this: pick a number, sit down, churn out the words and do not stop until we've reached your goal.
- Get toned. Keep that body (of work) toned and tight! When it comes to writing, it's not just the mileage (or should I say word count), that matters. It's the quality. Take the time to slow down and demonstrate the power of writing. Watch your run-on sentences. Say things in the most efficient way possible. Concentrate on the details.
- Rinse and repeat. Don't worry. We all make mistakes. Welcome to the big, wonderful world of writing, also known as the endless realm of editing and revision. You might even say that writers are professional mistake-makers-and-correctors. We write. We revise. We revise some more. And then we revise again, just because that's the way it is, folks. You can't be afraid to go back and fix stuff.
- Sweat it out, rookie. A little strain is normal. In fact, they say that pain is weakness leaving the body, right? Consider the hard, cold, often emotionally traumatizing (okay, so it's not that bad...quite.) world of criticism. There may be some critique groups or editors that don't like your work. That's okay. Move onto the the next editor or group. They don't like it either? Sad day. Consider their advice, take their opinions down, and move on. Don't get hung up on simplistic negativity. Remember that you'll likely have a whole lot of NOs before you get a YES.
- Take an off day. We all know that if you exercise like a maniac, you can get sick. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your health. The same goes for writing. While you need to be focused, goal-oriented and disciplined, you also need to have some off-time, just like any other job. For myself, I take Sundays off. It's nice to spend some time with the family, go to church and hang out with friends. Make sure you make time for some R&R.
You get what I'm saying, right? If you want to make it at anything, you've got to work at it. And hey. No matter how long you've been doing something, there's always more to learn. That's what I love about writing. There's always more to discover and more to fascinate me. Stay devoted to a consistent workout schedule and you'll be surprised at how the self-discipline of sticking to a writing routine will help you in other areas of your life, too.