Exercising your Literary Muscle
When we get older, our bodies change, along with all the other parts of ourselves and each part relies on the other to do their part. The mind cannot function to its fullest ability without the heart. The heart cannot beat as it should if there is no blood pumping through your veins. And without blood pumping, we’re doomed. It’s safe to say that after the age of forty, we do find it more difficult to find the motivation to exercise, because the results arrive slower. But the truth is, it’s because our bodies are losing the ability to build muscle naturally, and therefore, the body relies on us to do one thing; be consistent.
In my recent podcast, Limelight Publishing with Lynette Greenfield Author, on Anchor FM, I talk about this very issue and how it relates to writing. The muscles you need to encourage, and exercise are just as important as that blood rushing through you. Keeping active with your craft can keep your dreams and goals alive, no matter what life throws at you.
If you think about it, there are also many parts to your writing.
There’s your vocabulary for one; the bank of words you’ve accumulated over the years as you’ve spent time in social groups, reading, listening to strangers as they chat too loudly nearby, and on television and social media. Your bank may have even been boosted as far back as records or cassette players, which is wonderful, because I’m sure those beautiful mediums brought an extra layer of emotional responses, in turn creating new words for which to exercise in throughout your books. Words are all around us, sounds and music, and emotion. But just because you’ve written hundreds, if not thousands of pages of text, creative or otherwise, it does not mean you should stop listening. Listening is exercising one of the literary muscles on your body and it is a vital part of your growth as a writer. Writing every day can help you become more aware of the limits of your vocabulary. The more you write, the more obvious that frequent word choices become. Once you know your limitations, you can expand your vocabulary by finding stronger words or experimenting with word-order to see if there are other ways to get your message across. In this way, writing practice can help you craft a distinct voice, which is something that every good writer must have, and it can help you on your journey to becoming a better writer.
Your experience is another part of what makes you a unique writer. Exploring the world doesn’t always mean travelling. When was the last time you tried a new fruit? Or took yourself out of your comfort zone and removed your shoes off in the wet grass? Do not assume, that just because one sock is green and the other yellow, that they are different. Getting older and finding the energy to exercise this muscle, is not a simple one. Sometimes, courage fades. So, take it slow. When life slows down, slow down with it. Take the time to pay attention to the things you may have once rushed passed.
Make writing a habit. If you’re anything like me, you make a lot of excuses not to write – there’s washing to hang out, school lunches to make, dinner to prepare. I often tell myself, ‘I’ll get to that chapter after this floor is mopped.’ But these are not reasons, they are my excuses. Writing takes effort and can be emotionally draining at times. So, if sitting down to write feels too hard or daunting, try tackling it line by line, rather than chapter by chapter.
So, get yourself a notebook and set aside an hour every day just to write. Write about strange dreams that you had. Record what happened at work today. Try little writing exercises.
Do not feel discouraged if your initial writing is not great; the whole point of practicing is to steadily improve your skills, like working your muscles, which you can only do, if you have something to work with.