To Write More and Better, Approach Writing Like It’s a Muscle You are Training
If each time you attempt to write, you expect to write create literary brilliance, to craft verbal genius and flawless execution across thousands of words in length, I would rather distract myself with social media and entertainment and entirely avoid the likely reality of not being able to do that too. I wouldn’t blame you for succumbing to the mental jiujitsu you use to pin yourself into a state where you abandon endeavoring to overcome it.
Why not just cave into the safe, risk-free comfort of creating nothing? Of not challenging yourself? Of not trying to stretch your limits?
Because the real risk might be playing it safe.
Because what if writing were a muscle, one that you could exercise and train? And you would need this muscle to help move you from where you are to where you want to be? To help move others and your corner of the world?
While discussing his ideation and writing process, Jerry Seinfeld compares it to “an archery target 50 yards away. Then I take out my bow and my arrow, and I go, ‘Let me see if I can hit that.’”
Writing as Training: Speed. Strength. Endurance. Coordination.
Each time you sit down to write, you can train yourself the same way you would train a muscle by working on a specific dimension of fitness.
Speed — Open a blank page. Crouch down into sprinter position. Load your body with energy. Then ready. Set. Go.
Strength — Load the weight. Don’t back down. Get into position. Focus on form. Generate tension and squeeze your muscle, committing to the movement until you push through this seemingly immovable idea.
Endurance — It’s not that professional runners don’t get tired. They just train to find a place to put the tired until they complete their run. “Feeling tired” is not an acceptable excuse for them to abandon the race. Is it acceptable for you?
Coordination — In other words, muscle memory. If each draft is a repetition, the more you practice that same movement — repetition and after repetition — the better each execution and performance of it will be. Of course your first repetition of a new movement will never be as well executed as the second, third, or fourth. With each repetition, each attempt at a movement, your coordination will improve, and by the fourth one, its beauty might even feel and seem effortless.
The Aim of Each Training Session
The purpose of each writing session doesn’t have to be “perfection”. It can just be practice. You can embrace it with a growth mindset and believe that the gains ahead of you are still significant, especially when you adopt a beginner’s mindset where you don’t expect much from the process other than for yourself to embrace it and grow beyond where you start from.
Don’t demand artistic genius yourself. Just ask that you show up to put in the work, even if you’re “bad”. In fact, ask yourself to show up to train specifically because you are bad, so that you then can commit to getting better. Because becoming better is not just a belief. It’s also an option.
Get ready. Set. Go.