The Ultimate Workout for Building Your Writing Muscles
Writing is a workout, especially if you do it professionally. It’s an endurance test that forces you to tone those wordsmithing, syntax-assembling muscles. It demands creative stamina to achieve optimal results—not BMI, we’re talking ROI. Like any intense program, fitness of the pen is a culmination of diet (you are what you read) and discipline.
Are you ready? Fire up those writing muscles and get started with this week-long boot camp of scribes.
I. WARMUP: Get in the Zone
Create a foundation that fosters success.
Schedule writing sessions for when you work at peak performance. Are you more productive in the mornings? Late at night? After a post 9-5 glass of wine? Decide when you work at your personal best, then schedule writing for that time slot. Put it in your calendar (with a reminder). Planning daily writing time creates structure and helps you establish a strong routine.
Find your space. One that’s convenient, distraction-free, near a power outlet and has reliable WiFi—forget about that country home on the remote island of Jura. This is where you'll reach your target productivity rate. Report to this place religiously at the appointed time.
Set concrete goals for each session. Will today be for research, outlining or drafting? Honing in on your objectives does wonders for focus. Achieving smaller, manageable tasks builds momentum, making it easier to complete the final project. Once you have a clear purpose for writing, make these tasks time-bound. That’s right, give yourself rigorous yet realistic deadlines and stick to them.
II. STRENGTH TRAINING: Brainstorm, Research and Outline
Complete a circuit of high-intensity planning.
Fitness devotees have an arsenal of go-to equipment and professional writers do too. At Wix, we’re encouraged to experiment, test out new tools/apps and develop a clear game plan for mapping out ideas.
Warm up with a few of my favorites. Capture all your random thoughts with Scapple (text, images, even file uploads). When you're done with the brain dump, explore the connections between these ideas. Create a project board with Trello to get an overview of your workload. Then step back and chunk your "big picture" project into manageable tasks. When you’re ready to piece together an outline or log quick notes, WorkFlowy and Evernote are total wins.
Grab your laptop bag or notepad, and get into the mindset of your topic. Dive in, get to the know the people in this world and make sure you have a solid understanding of your subject matter. Be an anthropologist. Observe, take notes, retell the -isms you uncover and add truth/depth to the nature of your topic.
III. CARDIO: Write the Draft
Push yourself to new limits.
Hit the keyboard—hard. You’ve bulked up on research, have a trim and toned outline, and are ready to test your writing stamina. WRITE! No editing. No revising. No looking back to fix those comma splices or reconsider word choice. Save all that for later. Focus on getting your ideas from mind to screen.
If free-writing is particularly challenging for you, check out BlindWrite. This simple app asks what you want to write about, then sets a timer and blurs out the text as you work. When time is up, your text appears for that ever-critical-editor-self to pick apart. The point is, you have to get the work onto the page. Flex your creativity and settle in for an intense workout.
As with cardio, it’s essential to find your flow and keep a steady pace. Block out digital distractions like WhatsApp, Slack and your email inbox. Don’t think you have the willpower to last a full writing block? Download the Marinara: Pomodoro® Assistant. This little tomato helps you manage your time, pairing on-task work with short breaks. Decide how you work best and get ready for some interval drafting. Beast mode is in your future.
IV. CHEAT DAY: Rest
Break from the routine.
No, this isn’t an official cheat day where you can binge-watch Netflix, go on an Instagram rampage or stay home “sick.” You’re still reporting to your workspace. You’re still going to write. But today, mix it up. Deviate from your typical form, audience, genre or voice.
Write a poem or journal entry instead of a blog post. Revisit past work intended for a particular niche audience and rewrite it for kids. Approach a topic as if it were a romantic comedy and then again as if it were a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. Adopt the tone and linguistic style of one of your favorite writers and draft a letter in their likeness. The goal here is to stretch your creative muscles and dedicate writing to arenas outside your comfort zone.
V. COOL DOWN: Edit and Revise
Perfect your form.
Drafting is only half the writer’s journey. There’s plenty more heavy-lifting to do. Reread everything you’ve written with a critical lens and be your own proofreader. Make sure the weight of your words serves its purpose. Crush readers with value, knowledge, entertainment and leave them satisfied with your work. Check your content for cliches or overuse of jargon and remove them. Your writing will be clearer and more enjoyable to read.
Time for some compound exercises, those reps that engage a variety of writing muscles. This is when you need to devote an extended period of time to fine-tuning your words and simplifying text. Channel Papa himself with the Hemingway Editor. You'll discover how to simplify text to its most polished form, yet still hold onto your voice.
VI. RECOVERY: Publish
Play the coach.
Set new goals to make gains that the future-professional-writer-you will be proud of. Relish in the moment of a published personal best, but don’t forget to up the ante for your next project. Your writing skills should never plateau. The best way to avoid that kind of slump is by pumping out words regularly and committing to finishing. Make your first draft ripped, the next one jacked up and the final version seriously shredded. Go get ‘em tiger.
Want more writing practice?
Try this "Wixercise" on writing for social media.
Melissa Maehara, Marketing Writer at Wix