Monday, October 4, 2010

Busting the Bon-Bon Myth

Writers know their daily Ks don't belong to the screen alone.
Writers endure a tremendous amount of pressure—from their editors, publishers, readers, spouses and suffering bank accounts, and most of all themselves— to keep their "butts in the chair". That means sit down each day and do your job. Write. Fingers on keys.

Sterling advice, worthy of a stone tablet…or at least an overpriced Moleskine. But is it worthy of an uncomfortably snug pair of jeans? Dear God, say it ain't so.

I do most of my socializing within the authorsphere on Twitter, and one really cool thing I've noticed is how many of us make exercise a priority. Writers—individuals in any profession in which there's pressure, often self-induced, to stay glued to your screen and keyboard—have a reputation for being…how can I put this? A bit soft around the edges.

But we don't all work in our slippers and pajamas, drinking can after can of caffeinated soda and snacking as we type. Writers take their jobs very seriously, even if the hard work isn't always reflected in the paychecks. And I'd suggest we take our health seriously, too. I spot tweets all day that prove my fellow authors care just as much about the Ks they're walking as the ones they're writing.

I usually tweet when I'm about to take my morning run, in part because I know somebody will be kind enough to point out, "Aren't you supposed to be running by now?" when I invariably get waylaid by the conversations or my own work-in-progress. Writers are encouraged to put their WIPs before their waistlines, and to do otherwise can be seen as a distraction from their artistic and professional calling.


I love when I catch others' tweets about favorite yoga positions, who's heading out to the gym, who got an awesome idea for a story on their morning walk. I love seeing my fellow desk-jockeys jazzed about a new jump-start workout song or crazy high-tech sneakers or a fitness goal reached. So take that, stereotypes and self-induced productivity guilt!

That said, it is a sedentary existence, being a full-time writer. For those who are slacking a bit on their fitness regimen, I think setting a goal for exercise as one would words (such as, "I will write 2K today and walk that same distance") is wise, not only for your health, but also your creativity. Getting your blood moving through cardio and stretching is fantastic for your brain. It clears out the cobwebs and freshens your head, relaxes you so your ideas can flow more easily, and it boosts your confidence. Think I'm talking out of my ass? Go for a vigorous 45-minute walk and tell me you don't feel more lucid and capable when you next sit down to flagellate yourself in service to the almighty word count god. I walk when I'm stuck for a story's turning point and it nearly always does the trick. It can also get you out of the house, which is key in a job where the tiniest observation can blossom into a full-blown epic at any serendipitous moment.

So, to any scoffers out there who still think writers spend more time reaching for the bon-bons than the dumbbells, the tweets beg to differ. And to the writers who need a little kick in the priorities, consider committing yourself to a 2K-a-day style exercise goal. It may take a perceived 25–30 minutes away from your precious writing time, but I promise you, you'll see a difference not only in your daily calorie tally, but also in your word count.


  1. I heart this post! I learned the hard way that a sedentary, I'm-spending-too-much-time-in-front-of-the-computer lifestyle is not a good idea. Now I'm walking 4x/day, and I brainstorm a ton about my story. I've found that my writing is much faster and more efficient now that I only allow myself 1-2 hrs at a time on the computer.

    Have a great run! :)

  2. I know I'm a student and not a professional writer, but once finals roll around I'm physically incapable of mustering the concentration to spend all day studying unless I've also spent some time exercising. I think your post applies to anyone whose work is mostly sedentary.