Monday, October 22, 2007

Drop down and give me twenty!

I'll forgive you if you never want to talk to me again after I say this:

I love push-ups. (No, not the Popsicle kind.)

I mean the kind that Arnold does. Or Jack Palance. Or Demi Moore. Okay, maybe not THAT extreme. But you get the idea that we're talking exercise here, not ice cream. (Or bras.) And we will eventually be talking writing, too, so stick with me.

What do I love about push-ups?

Well, they aren't weights, for one thing. Lifting weights is time consuming and incredibly boring, like writing a grade-leveled language arts textbook. Push-ups, on the other hand, are like pumping out a scathing, witty review of such a textbook. Sure, it's show-offy and quick, but oooh, the adrenaline rush!

Push-ups are also beautiful. They look like modern dance when you do them right, in all their various forms. (Look at those alligator push-ups!) They remind me of poetry, which is strong, beautiful, and wickedly word efficient.

But the best thing about push-ups is that they don't mess around. You do them; they work. Everything, from your triceps to your core to your butt gets stronger. Where is the equivalent in the writing world? It takes so long to learn how to be a good writer! There is plot, and characterization, and sentence structure, and setting, and word choice, and the ever-squishy, resistant-to-training "voice." What I want is one ultra-cool writing exercise that will help me develop all of these things, all at the same time.

What say you? Do you have a secret writing training exercise I should know about? Because right now, I'm doing it the hard way: by writing one novel after the other. With some poetry thrown in so I don't give up and go home.

Oh, and for those of you who didn't run away at my first sentence: tell me what you think of these fitness gems:

From Mommy Muscle: Do Your Age in Push-ups

Macarena Push-ups

Push-ups in a muddy river

P.S. I think I'll be posting more on the physicality of writing. I like this topic.

P.P.S. I had to live up to this post by working out extra hard this morning. Thanks a lot, guys! I even tried the alligator push-ups. Verdict: fun, although I'm sure an actual alligator would have busted a gut laughing before he caught and ate me.


  1. Oh, hell. I'd kinda sorta forgot about push-ups and now I've got to go back to them. Sigh. I'd be more apt to post about the yoga of writing -- the opening, the letting it flow. But then, you've probably got better biceps than I do...

  2. Liz, I love yoga, too. And I think about its relationship to writing all the time in class. Why don't you blog about it, and I'll chime in?

    I think we should use our whole bodies, and not just our heads, when we write. It's part of what helps us "write from the heart" to use another body-related metaphor.

  3. Push-ups are great! Love them, and need to do more! Thanks for illuminating me about all their virtues (I thought it mostly helped the arms!)

    For literary equivalents, I've heard many journalists say they developed those efficient, targeted, and short-form skills through writing daily under tight deadlines with ever changing assignments.

    Outside of the fires (which are pretty worrisome...), we're going through intense, but fun organizational "push-ups" here with the Southern California SCBWI. Check it out: yes, a Children's Graphic Novel Day!

  4. If I lived in Southern California, I'd be there, Mac! Writing a graphic novel sounds like a marathon, though, according to Gene Yang. I think he said that it takes eight hours to do one page? That's a lot of sweat...

  5. I don't love push-ups, but I love this post. My college freshman English prof always reminded us: "writing is an athletic activity." You must constantly train, vary your routine,and build up your strength and endurance for the long haul. You absolutely have to write with your whole body (and heart, and soul).
    I like what Mac said about journalists. Very true!

  6. Sara, I love to think of the physicality of writing, too. So much of it feels like working the same muscles, helping them grow stronger.

    My pushups are doing Morning Pages every day, without fail. Three hand-written pages of whatever is on my mind. It's a practice I learned from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, and I can honestly say it has helped me more than any other writing exercise. It taught me to write like myself, and as you probably know, that's a hard thing to learn. A lot of us waste a lot of time trying to write like someone else, don't you think?

  7. Jama, what a cool professor! I hope you saved all your notes. :)

    Robin, good on you for still doing morning pages. I used to do them, but I gave them up when I started writing Letters From Rapunzel. I found that those three pages just ate up all my writing energy and I didn't want to create anymore. They weren't the warm-up; they were the work-out!

    Now I keep a journal for each longer project and even though I don't keep to the three pages rule, I do think that all those morning pages taught me how to just get it all out there without judging too much. As you said, to learn to write like me.

  8. Sara -- yes to a full-body writing discussion, but not today. Let's email and figure something out...


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