Writing and Working Out

Just Show UpI started doing both at the same time. I was working with a colleague and friend from a nearby university on an article submission. I hadn’t written much (at least of any length) since the completion of my dissertation. I was worn out. Tired. Done.

Then, an opportunity to collaborate with a friend came along and I couldn’t pass it up—either professionally or personally. It was time to write. The topic was based on my dissertation, making it distinctively difficult to dive back into. But, there I was, sitting at my computer, staring at all of the work I had previously done, needing to somehow become inspired, rededicated, and write.

I did just that. I sat. I reread my previous work. I jotted down new ideas. I stared at a computer screen. I even met with my colleague to brainstorm and outline my thoughts and the overall development of the paper.

Interestingly, my efforts to get into physical shape coincided with my efforts to get back into writing shape. I felt like I was in a sad Nike commercial. I kept telling myself “Just do it! Just do it!” to no avail. Finally, I did. After day two of my initial workout efforts, I was sore—the kind of sore that makes it hard to sit, stand, walk, squat, or bend over. The time I had taken away from exercising my body resulted in a severe—and literal—pain in my ass.

I woke in the middle of the night, worrying about my paper submission and thinking about the pain I was in. One thought stuck out: the pain I was feeling physically was similar to the mental pain I was feeling trying to write again. Even though taking a year off of writing doesn’t seem like a ridiculous idea, especially after working so hard to finalize a doctorate, I realized how important the consistent practice of writing and movements of the body were—or rather are—to maintaining a healthy mind and body.

When working with teachers as a high school literacy coach, I had a motto: “Read regularly; write daily.” Teachers often wondered at my adamant position about the importance of reading and writing in every discipline. When we fall out of practice—even for a few days—our brain strains to get back into the practice reading and writing. Extended time away from reading and writing can make us want to give up. To stop writing. To stop reading. It isn’t surprising to consider the ease in which we quit writing when we consider how easy it is to give up on a new workout regime when we are tired and sore. I have heard that after two weeks of not exercising our bodies, we lose all of the stamina we have built up to that point. How many weeks, I wonder, does it take to get out of writing shape?

Sadly, I quit my workout regime after about a week. However, I kept up with my writing because I had a purpose—and a deadline—and a true passion for the topic. Now, if I could just get back my passion for exercise, the world will be back in balance. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.