When you put your “mind to muscle” you are more effectively training your body, and your mind. To know what muscle(s) you engage is much better than mindlessly jerking around some weights. And if you are using soup cans like some magazines advise, stop it! Go buy you something that says, “I’m working out. I’m awesome! I’m so gorgeous and now I’ll be strong too!” (Suggestion for beginners: stretch bands are a gentle but effective way to start a strengthening regime—they’ll work as hard as you do).
When you push, you engage your chest and triceps. When you pull, you engage your back and biceps (picking up a bag of groceries or a child? there you go). Walking up a hill, your hamstrings (the big muscle at the back of your leg) and your glutes (that’s your bee-hind, y’all!) take on the load; when you go down that hill your quadriceps (the muscle group at the top of your thigh) say Hello There! All the while, your core muscles—those important beautiful muscles in your stomach, waist, back—are holding you up, improving your posture, giving you a long confident appearance. Have you ever stopped to notice? If you are like a lot of writers (this one included), often our minds are wandering, wondering, zippity-do-dah-daying in Other-Worlds, forgetting about the one we live in.
Pay attention to your body. Take a walk and notice the feel of your leg muscles, notice the air filling your lungs, notice the way a breeze touches your face, the sounds you hear, the very you of You, the very earth of Earth. Your body is a stunning biological machine, your brain an incredible fascinating mysterious organ, so give yourSelf some respect, my friends. Sitting down to your manuscript, you will remember those sensory details and they will enrich your writing. Trust your Personal Trainer Novelist Kathryn.
When you care about your body and what you do to it and with it and what you put inside it, the world becomes sharper, clearer—you can still tap into your angst if angst is what you need to write from, but it will arrive from a position of Clear-Headed Power. You move better, sleep better (insomnia? try exercise), have better sex (a strong body and sex?: WHUPOW!) , and, yes, write better—sounds good, doesn’t it? I’m not talking about finding a mountain where you sit in lotus position and eat nuts and seeds all day. Even a few changes will bring to you surprising results—because our bodies and minds crave our devotion. We devote to our families, friends, critters (when’s the last time you walked your dog? really? that long? dang!) work or play, writing (and that is also work and play), and often neglect care of ourselves.
Our writing lives depend on our ability to be self-disciplined. To be focused. It’s so often a self-motivating profession. That same strength and focus you give your body can be effectively used when you sit down to create. Consider your first crap-a-doodle-doo-doo draft. It’s a mess, flabby and weak. You flex that writing muscle to character development, place, tone, voice, plot (or whatever you want to call What the Story is About), gaining in strength and confidence as the story becomes healthy and pink-cheeked.
Writers often are Self-Conscious instead of Self-Aware. There is a difference, my wonderfuls. Let’s take a moment to consider the difference between self-consciousness and self-awareness: *do you see the difference yet? I’ll wait . . . .*
It is important to know that your actual body and your actual brain need your actual consideration to be actually strong and healthy, focused and alive and kickass. Shoot, if you want to be the clichéd “Tortured Writer” who drinks coffee all day and vodka all night while munching junk food and forgetting to comb your hair or move for fifty-galleven hours then falling into a restless four-hour sleep, arise, and start it all over again and dammit that works for you, then be my guest, but what if I’m right? Hmm? What if you become—gasp—healthy, by movement and self-awareness and good food! And that healthy body and mind change the course of your destiny *cue soaring music*. We will always find a way to be tortured, or tortures will be visited upon us, so why not control what we can?
Deciding—choice choice choice!—to be healthy and strong, to put your mind to your muscle, to be (self-) aware of where you are at the very moment you are in it, will make you a better writer because it makes you a better everything.
Will you make a healthy change today to better your life and your writing life? Okay, then what is your first actual action?