Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Exercise of Writing: Playing the Game

Yeah, so I heard that some of you aren't into this whole mind/body thing. And that you'd rather buy a Fab-Ab-Cruncher than my writing/exercise game theory. So I'm going to play hardball today. That's right, I'm hauling out the METAPHORS. (Be afraid. Very afraid.)

Ever think of....

Writing as Boxing:

Looking for a win? Fine, but don't rig the fight. You need a genuine opponent, not a weak premise that exists only so you can score a quick KO. You need something heavy and well-anchored that pushes back when you give it hard jab. Look at that picture...he's fighting, not "working out." Pick a worthy subject. Get into the ring. My money's on YOU.

Writing as golf:

Putts add up. So do details. If you play eighteen holes as an amateur, putting is half (or more) of your score. So forget the overblown drivers and the sweet hybrid irons. Read the greens (and the dictionary.) Know how your putt (and your characters) will break. And the right bit of dialogue will sink the ball into the cup every time. At least that's why I keep talking to my ball. (Go in! Go in!)

Writing as yoga:

Corpse Pose. Also known as the nap. Performed correctly, this pose enables a writer to solve complex plot problems and find missing scenes. This pose may also be used to fake actual death should someone ask you to read their 75,000 word picture book manuscript. But you'll have a tough time explaining those short shorts. (Really, they're literary! The Guardian publishes them!)

What about you? How is writing like your favorite sport? Liz is playing this game today, too. Go see her!

P.S. I'm doing a roundup post here on Saturday, so if you have a blog entry that deals with "The Exercise of Writing" or you interviewed a writer who mentioned their physical routine or you read a book that developed this theme---or even if you want to scramble and write a reaction post double-quick---please send me the link.


  1. Okay... okay... I get the point.

    I blogged about bowling awhile back here:

    I have been bowling once a week and NOW I can see the connection. So... I guess writing is like bowling. You may not knock down all of the pins, but you still enjoy walking down that lane and aiming that ball to the center. The team spirit and general high fives can also keep you sane. I always say, "If you can't take chances when playing games, when can you?"

    Thanks for those metaphors... I think!

  2. Okay, I'll play.
    For me, writing is like skating. Stepping out onto fresh ice is like opening my journal and leaving words on a blank page. When your skates hit the ice for the first time, and leave lines that only you have made, it's freeing. As you continue to skate, the ice fills with swirls and shavings, building a kaleidoscope of images. In the midst of all that beauty are the circles where bottoms have hit the ice, long swaths where bodies have slid, and prints from hands that have helped the fallen get back to their feet. My written page looks much the same way, with carefully crafted sentences, side-by-side with cross-outs and insertions. Once the ice is scratched and rutted, it is wiped clean by the zamboni, presenting a fresh surface on which to begin again. In my writing, I simply turn the page, and start anew.

  3. Great series, Liz and Sara. I checked in to say...what Tricia has already said! (Whew, she saved me some time. I would just add the lacing up as part of the routine.)

  4. My two main physical activities are racquetball and water workouts.

    Racquetball is more like the rough draft for me. I have to focus ("Get the serve back, get the serve back") and just be in that moment, pushing myself forward. It's half focus, half instinctive.

    Water workouts are more like revising. They're intellectual and lyrical at the same time. I'm aware of which muscles (physically or writing-wise) I'm using. I try to enjoy the feel of the water on my skin or the character's mood on the page. But there's also more time to focus on doing it right, being proactive...not just reacting to the flow of words in my head (or a racquetball coming at my head).

  5. Have you ever read Brenda Ueland's books (ME, IF YOU WANT TO WRITE)? They are old but she is fiesty and in them she talks about how important physical activity is to her writing. She walked miles and miles everyday, walked hard, even in the freezing cold--she lived in Minnesota! I loved her books and found them really interesting, could relate. I think you would, too.

  6. You gotta love the corpse pose. Thanks for your metaphors. These are great and much needed right now.

  7. I'm an expert at the corpse pose :). Very cool metaphors.

  8. Great post, Sara! I'll post my metaphors tomorrow. (Yikes, they could get pretty awful!) Oh well, fun anyway. ;-)

  9. Hey these were really genuinely good! Very enjoyable.

    Writing is like riding a unicycle - moments of giddiness that end in pain.

  10. Writing as fencing. Got to keep hitting the reader in the heart, darting through their defence of cynicism, apathy, distraction, and Nintendo. Yet in a nice way, because fencing is not an aggressive sport; you like your 'opponent' because the whole thing is such fun.


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