I am super excited, dear reader. I get to introduce you to someone new to my blog! Meet Cal, my newest guest blogger. He has graced us with his writing presence, presenting us with a wonderful piece about working out…and writing. Please enjoy!
It’s January 10th as of this writing, and those New Year’s resolutions are going strong right now. You’re spending more time with your kids. You’re dusting off that old manuscript. You’re flossing your teeth every day (that one is me). You’re hitting the gym. That’s a big one, right?
As a personal trainer and competitive powerlifter, I see a flood of new bodies hit the gym on Jan 2nd, and by Feb 15th, 90% of them are gone.
They stick with their 52-week commitment for six weeks.
I’ll be honest: that’s pathetic.
I get it. Sticking to something you say you’re going to do is hard. And after the glamour wears off and it’s no longer sexy, how do you keep going? How do you stay motivated?
That’s the first problem. People wait for motivation to come to them like it’s some sort of magical entity, and when it leaves (if it ever arrives in the first place), they have no idea what to do. Motivation is a simple psychological phenomenon, and it comes and goes like the tide. If you only act on your interests, responsibilities, and commitments when you’re motivated, you won’t accomplish anything.
This article isn’t about how to stay motivated. If I knew that, I would be living in a castle somewhere, counting my billions. This article is about a very simple method I use for both myself and my clients to keep effort consistent when the mental energy just isn’t there. I use this on myself all the time. (Contrary to popular belief, not even personal trainers want to work out every day. We just do it.)
I’m sharing this method with the writing community because I think it has a lot of carry-over potential. I’m going to explain it in lifting terms, and then I’ll switch over to how it can help your writing.
I have a very fancy, catchy name for this trick. It’s called the “warm up, then go home” method. Rolls right off the tongue, right?
It’s very simple. Most of my clients see me twice a week and work out once or twice a week on their own. I provide their workouts for them, including the ones they do on their own. The workouts I write are usually pretty hard. People get sore. People get tired. People want to skip a day.
I tell those people, “Warm up, then go home.” No matter how shitty you feel, come in and warm up. You MUST do this. Then go home if you want to. I won’t be upset. If you’re feeling up for it, walk over to the squat rack and set up your first exercise. If looking at that loaded bar makes you think, “Nope,” that’s ok. Unload the bar and go home. If you’re still there, do your first set. And if you feel like leaving after that, go home. If you’re still in the gym, do your second set, and…
You get it.
You’d be astounded at how many people who think, “Yeah, I’m not working out today,” end up completing a full workout. And it all starts with the warm-up.
The psychology behind it is simple. A workout is a complex, difficult, exhausting thing that requires physical exertion, mental focus, and time. At the end of a long day, that’s about as appealing as playing hot potato with a lit firework. The prospect of sweating and straining for an hour when you just want to go home, crack a beer, put your feet up, and eat a burrito is not a pleasant one.
So what do we do about this?
You make said prospect (working out) more appealing by making it significantly easier and shorter. A one-hour workout is hard. A five minute warm-up is quick and simple. And it’s the option to leave afterwards that sells it mentally.
Once they start moving and the blood gets flowing, the next step seems much less unappealing. They’re already in the building, they’re in their workout clothes, their muscles are warm and ready to go. To throw in the towel now would be a waste of time, right?
So they go to the next step, which is the start of the work sets (the actual workout).
And from there, they go to the next, and the next. Each step makes the next one significantly easier, and eventually, the full workout is done. It’s just a trick. Just an extremely useful, easy, and powerful trick.
So how does this apply to your writing?
Try this: Open your WIP, then quit.
Seriously. Next time you know you should write, but you really don’t want to, just pull out your laptop, open it up, and load your WIP. Look at it for thirty seconds. Then, if you want to, close it and go on about your day guilt free.
If you haven’t closed it yet, then just scroll through a bit. Don’t look at it with a critical eye, just browse through a section you like. If you’re not feeling excited, then close it and move on. That’s perfectly fine. Don’t beat yourself up.
But if looking at your work gets those wheels turning, and you start to feel that ambition flowing through your veins, if your characters start speaking and the plot unfolds before you, then… Well, you know the rest.
Go write some cool shit.
Closing note: Please don’t be reckless with your mental health. Don’t force yourself into a destructive pattern. This is a simple trick to help you be more productive and swing a zero into a bit of quality writing. The reason this works is because when you think, “I have to write,” you’re thinking about the work. The task. It doesn’t sound fun, it sounds dry and arduous. This trick will get you to think about the story, and that’s what will get you excited. Once that happens, the doors start opening.
Use this to get excited. Don’t use this to white-knuckle a project you don’t feel good about. It’s not a substitute for passion, it’s a way to rekindle it under a no-pressure situation. No story is worth your personal wellbeing.
Website & Blog: www.calplogan.com
Thank you so much, Cal! How true is this! I have accidentally used this method, without knowing it even had a name. Cal said that motivation is psychological, which is absolutely true. Knowing our own motivating factors can help us in the long run. If we have the desire to do something, the first step to doing it is activation. Even if the desire isn’t there later, we can conjure it up again by acting on it. Cal gives us an easy way to do just that. Once we start, we need to be persistent, then intensify our pursuit (and there you have the three components of motivation: activation, persistence, and intensity).
Thank you for reading! Please don’t forget to visit Cal’s blog and follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with his adventures in writing and publication.
Talk to you later!