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Reblog: Writing Resolutely

350x313I need a nap! Don’t get me wrong, I love the New Year. It’s full of possibilities. Like the possibility that I’ll get my novel finished this year, or that I’ll drop the fifteen pounds I’ve put on since Thanksgiving.

The fourth quarter is tough, isn’t it. At my house, holiday celebrations are a priority, and that means food, Food, FOOD! And, of course, there’s the kids. We watched an infant for some friends of ours over the holiday break. I walked the little darling until she fell asleep, then I sat down for a moment. Just to rest my eyes. My minions seized the opportunity, struck, and snapped this picture.

Fair warning, this post isn’t the usual sunshine and snark. I’ve been fairly lazy and I’m put out about it.

Walking a baby should not have tired me out so much, but I have been eating rich, calorie-laden food since November 28th. And sweets; cookies, cakes, pies, confections … all homemade with real butter! Also, as mentioned previously, holiday celebrations are a priority, meaning the dojo has not been. I haven’t worked out consistently since the week before Thanksgiving.

Curiously (or perhaps not), it has been extremely difficult to meet even my most minimal writing goals.

When my family saw the picture above, they said, “Oh, how cute!” My middle child added, “The baby, not you, dad,” just in case I misunderstood. I didn’t. My reaction was “I have jowls! When did I get jowls?” Yes, I was smart enough not to say it out loud. I felt guilty about my reaction, though. The little girl is adorable, but all I saw was my flapping cheeks and swaying wattle.

I’m not a vain person. No, really, I’m not. When I went bald over fifteen years ago, my wife asked if I wanted to consider alternatives. I said, “Like what? Rogaine? If I ever stop it, all the new hair will fall back out. Hair plugs? I’ll look like Ken, and a toupe? Then my head will smell like my feet! No thanks!” I hit 30, 35, 40, 45, all with no problem. So, what’s my damage? I don’t know. Just seeing myself with jowls and a wattle threw me. I don’t *feel* like I should look that old.

“Yeah, right,” you say. “You got out of breath walking a baby.” Dang it!

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. They *do* work for some people, I’m just not one of them. It’s a limitation, I admit, but I press on anyway. What works best for me is consistent behavior, slow, steady, chipping away. Then I turned fifty, go all up in arms about my mortality, and wandered a bit. It’s been instructive. Now, I know what I don’t need to be doing. No fads, just consistent application.

At present, I have over 200 consecutive writing days of 250 words or more a day. Getting those totals has not been easy, especially with my holiday slip-and-slide. All of this to say, rather than make a New Year’s resolution concerning my writing, I’m re-dedicating myself to writing more resolutely in the coming year. To write with more focus, more purpose, more drive, and more energy; and believe it or not, doing so will help address the sagging flesh issue.

I have lost count of the number of times I have left work, gone to the dojo, worked out for an hour and two, and then come home, and written over a thousand words. On the other hand, I have also left work, gone directly home (being too tired to work out, and all), and crashed on the sofa for three hours, watching television. There is a direct correlation between how I feel physically, and how much of my writing I can develop mentally. However, this is an intensely personal thing.

Some fellow writers started a podcast about a year ago called, “Fit-To-Write” that addressed the “be fit, feel better, write better” idea. Unfortunately, the ‘cast kind of petered out. The content was specific to the hosts’ experience. Nothing wrong with that, except it is hard to translate that very personal information for generic, individual use.

What am I suggesting? Well, rather than tell you all about what has been (and currently is) working for me, I want to break it down into a few simple points.

  1. Consistence. Be deliberate; pick a daily time. Never use the phrase, “I’ll do it later, if I can work it in.” I don’t know about you, but I can never quite seem to “work it in,” but I can always make it to an appointment. Reserve time to workout, like to you reserve time to write, and guard it as jealously.
  2. Move. That’s all, just move. American Fitness culture has given us a warped picture of an ideal workout. It’s not all about beautiful people in form fitting clothes. It’s about moving, and getting your heart rate up. When I started working out, almost everyone I spoke with told me to run, it is a great way to get fit. They aren’t wrong, except I hate running. It’s boring. Fortunately, there is swimming, biking, rowing, walking, and about a dozen more ways of varying impacts to improve your cardio endurance. If you are like me, began easy and walk. This is a purposeful walk, not a saunter to Haagen-Dazs. Work your way up to swimming, or running, if you prefer. Find a cardio program that suits you and just move. (Having said all of that: Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor nor a fitness professional. Please consult your physician before starting a fitness program of any kind.)
  3. Write. It will surprise you when you notice it, but the better you feel, the better you write. That has been my experience and I have suffered by straying from it.

After consideration, I believe the thing that frustrates me the most about the photo is the realization that, if only for that moment, I bought into the “fitness ideal” idea the same way I have bought into the “ideal writer” or “ideal story” concepts in the past. The truth is, none of those things exist.

I said I didn’t feel like I should look that old. Well, there’s no getting away from my age, it’s reality. However, I shouldn’t be upset by it. There’s no more an ideal age, than there is an ideal fitness, or an ideal writer. We have to come into these things our own way. And, because it’s ours, we’ll cherish it and protect it. In turn, if we let it, it will help make us great. Even if it’s only in our own minds!

DirtyMagick-LA_BookCover_we-196x300 Paul’s first published short story, “The Winds,” is part of “Dirty Magick: Los Angeles” – an anthology exploring the crossroads between urban fantasy and noir; mean streets, dirty magic! Available for Kindle and Nook.

This post originally appeared January 6th 2014, at Wordsmith Studio. They have generously granted permission for me to repost this article.

About the Author: Paul K. Ellis
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