Friday, March 03, 2006

I need to do both

I haven’t written an entry in awhile, but I’m going to try to start blogging more often. It really helps me stay in the writing mindset, and I need to do all I can to stay focused on writing because I’ve taken something on that could easily get me off track.

Last week I decided to do another Body for Life challenge. Just about a year ago I began my first BFL challenge. It was a great thing for me to do in so many ways. After 12-weeks I ended up really fit and strong, and felt much less stressed in general. For the past year I’ve been exercising regularly and eating much healthier food, and I never would have made all those good changes if I hadn’t started BFL.

There was a big downside to doing that first challenge, however. When I was in challenge mode I spent so much time thinking about nutrition and fitness, I stopped focusing on writing and I didn’t make any progress on my novel.

I think in a lot of ways it was good for me to have another goal to strive towards—something that was more concrete. If you eat right and exercise, you get in much better shape. That’s the bottom line. Novel writing, though, isn’t nearly as cut and dry. A lot of times you feel like you are spinning your wheels and it’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when the process takes such a long time. It was refreshing to have a goal like a BFL challenge that I could achieve in just 12 weeks. So I understand why my thoughts and actions drifted away from writing, I just don’t want it to happen again.

Now I need to focus on writing. I can’t get obsessed with food and exercise and seeing my abs, or I’ll lose my drive to finish the novel. Consequently, after our trip to Mexico in November I eased up on nutrition and exercise, because I didn’t want to get off track again with writing. I didn’t stop exercising completely, and I still ate relatively healthy most of the time, but I wasn’t nearly as “clean” as I’d been when in the midst of a BFL challenge. However, one huge benefit I’ve gotten from BFL nutrition and exercise is that it really helps minimize my migraines. And with easing up on the exercise and nutrition, the headaches were returning. When I have a bad migraine it’s hard just to get through the day taking care of the kids—getting up early to write and staring at a computer screen is out of the question.

What I want to be able to do is strike a balance. I want to be a really healthy and fit writer. I want to do both. I hate how awful I feel physically and emotionally when I’m not in challenge mode—and minimizing the headaches makes it all so worth it, not to mention all the other health benefits. So I’ve decided to do a challenge, but I’m going to do my darndest not to obsess about it.

Whenever my thoughts stray to:
• exercise
• food
• wondering how much fitter I’ll be by the end of the challenge
• hoping my shoulders and biceps will continue to look more developed, etc.

I’ll try to nudge them back to writing-related thoughts like:
• my characters and the story
• plans for my next writing session
• visualizations of how incredible it’s going to feel to type “The End”
• hopes that I can get my manuscript in good enough shape to pitch it at a writing conference in the fall.

Today while I was doing interval training on the treadmill I kept repeating to myself: “I’m strong. I write. I’m fit. I write.” I can’t forget that I’m a writer. Even when I’m exercising, I want to be thinking about writing. I won’t finish this novel if I don’t push myself. There are too many excuses and reasons to slack off.

After one week, I think it’s going pretty well. My energy level is right back up again, and I haven’t had a headache in five days. When I get extra hungry, it’s hard not to think about my next meal, but I try not to focus on it. And I think continuing to blog about writing and the final stages of this first draft will help keep my mind back on writing—which is where I want it to be right now.

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