Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” — Joseph Addison
Many articles prescribe daily word counts; or a specific amount of time spent firmly planted at your desk. Some even suggest writing standing up, laying down, or on index cards — a preferred habit by many great writers in history. But what about the rest of your day? Are there any distinct habits which work together to improve your craft — even when you’re not writing?
When I thought about my “special” routine for success, I came up with the answer: Read. Write. Exercise.
The idea behind these three words is simple: removing obstacles. By only allowing yourself to read, write, and exercise, you dedicate your day to productive activities. No matter what you choose, you will directly or indirectly improve your writing.
Let’s take a closer look.
If you’re not devoting a substantial amount of time to reading, then you’re missing out on the most effective way to improve as a writer. You write better by reading better — period. Moreover, it’s important to read widely. By studying literature in all genres, you’re exposed to many different styles — which will ultimately create your individual voice.
Even if you “waste” the day with your favorite author, you’re still studying the art of writing. It’s true that your novel isn’t going to write itself — but, if the worst thing you’ve done today is spend a lazy afternoon with a book, then you’re still in pretty good shape.
This is a no-brainer. If you want to improve your writing, you need to..well, write! Furthermore, you need to set measurable goals. This is where things like: writing at a specific time of day, aiming for a certain word count, or working for x-amount of hours, comes into play. This requires some experimenting. If writing a thousand words a day doesn’t work — then don’t do it! Writing–like exercise–is most effective when you enjoy it. If writing for two hours in the middle of the night is your thing, great! Once you’ve found your comfort zone — stick to it. By creating the habit, you will strengthen your writing muscles, and soon find yourself filling the page with ease.
How does exercise help you write better? It doesn’t — directly. However, I’ve had a lot of creative insight during a simple walk around the neighborhood. If you’re stuck or feeling blocked, try heading to the gym or out for a jog.
I’m not sure why, but the solution often appears when we’re not looking for it. Need another reason to put those muscles to work? Well, if you’re anything like me, you probably spend your day hunched over a keyboard. This is not healthy.
But, you can get out of that chair, and make the effort to become more active. Not only will your body thank you, but so will your writing. After all, “Motion creates emotion.”
OK, so “Read. Write. Exercise,” isn’t exactly a secret formula, but it’s an effective way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your day. By removing obstacles and focusing on three simple tasks — Your time is always well spent.
Do you have your own success routine? I would love to hear from you in the comments!