Is Fiction Writing Like Exercise?

Prior to the pandemic, did you ever run into this scenario? You pay for a monthly membership to the local fitness center. At first, you’re all excited about the prospect of getting into shape. The friendly trainers at the center give you an orientation to show you how to use the machines, and off you go. At first, you meet your goal of working out regularly. Then life starts getting busy and your visits to the gym grow less frequent. You really want to get back there more often, but there’s just too much going on. While you still visit the gym occasionally, you start feeling guilty about not going more. Eventually, you lose your motivation to go at all, but you keep the gym membership because you know you “really should get back there.” Maybe, there is a bright spot where you get all excited about it again for a couple of weeks before it starts to taper off. Finally you cancel the membership.

Over the years, I’ve seen the same pattern among some amateur writers. They start with a load of enthusiasm (and often real talent), but eventually lose their motivation and stop writing altogether.

I understand the problem. While I’ve never given up writing, I have certainly canceled gym memberships. Trying to stay motivated over the long haul is difficult. Writing can be one of the most rewarding activities in the world, but it is seldom easy, and parts of it can be tedious. It can feel frustrating and discouraging, particularly when you hear about how tight the market is these days and you watch good writers get one rejection letter after another.

When I see a friend lose the motivation to write, it saddens me greatly. I’ve tried various ways over the years to motivate my friends to get back to writing, but have met with mixed results. I don’t even fully understand what motivates me to write fiction. I’ve been writing novels since at least my college days and probably even longer. At times, I have been discouraged. I’ve even slowed down my pace for a while, but I’ve always come back to writing eventually.

The best advice I can give to young writers comes from my own experience: don’t give up. Remember that it will get better. The more you write, the easier it becomes to write more. When you finish that first book or short story, it is an accomplishment to celebrate, even if the only people who ever read your work are your friends and family. Your writing will improve as you go — I’ve seen it happen multiple times with my writer friends over the years.

With respect to physical exercise, on the other hand — ahem — well, let’s just say that If I tried to admonish people to get more exercise, I would be a hypocrite, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut about that. Hmmm…I wonder if exercising your fingers on a keyboard counts?

Talk to you next Friday.

-Susan 4/23/2021

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