In addition to being a Writer, I am a Fitness Enthusiast. There are at least three obvious parallels between the disciplines of Exercise and Writing.
1. They both operate on momentum. It is lore among some writers that Ernest Hemingway would often complete a writing session mid-sentence so that when he returned to it, he literally would pick up where he left off.
Whether or not there’s any truth to that story, getting into a Mid-Sentence Hard Stop is a great way to create momentum for the next time you face the page. In the context of exercise, there may not be a direct “mid-sentence” equivalent, but sometimes I’ll leave my workout clothes out for the next morning so they’re ready to put on, or I’ll schedule the next day’s workout the night before (assuming I’m not attending a scheduled group class), all the way down to the minute.
2. They both improve tremendously with slight challenge increases. When you “hit a wall” in fitness, you either take a break (which also helps in writing) or increase the weight, time, any X challenge slightly. This way, you can keep the momentum going and also maintain enough challenge to keep from injuring yourself (i.e., giving up writing because it’s too hard) or from getting bored, with the same result.
3. When you’re starting from scratch, there’s nothing like the “Just Do It” approach. In 1988, Nike came out with its famous ad campaign that has become a pervasive part of the Type A personality’s culture of ambition and achievement. When there is a risk of seeing my momentum slip, another trick I use is to ask myself: “The time is going to pass anyway, so how will you wish you had spent it?”).
The same applies to writing and facing the blank page. There’s really no way around it, or put another way, a saying attributed to a variety of different sources but here from Gavin Rossdale’s Bush song “Superman”: the “only way out is through.”
When I’m lagging and feeling like I just may hit the pause button on my fitness routine, that’s the phrase that nearly always comes to mind, and one hundred percent of the time, it works.
Ultimately, these tips apply to learning any skill, including and especially writing. When you get to a plateau, just keep going.