4 Things Bodybuilding Teaches Us About Writing

About six months back, I started exercising again. I’d grown tired of looking like Andy Dwyer and decided to become Star-Lord. So I cut out beer (mostly), started running 15 miles per week, and developed a weekly full-body weightlifting regimen.

I started blogging that same week. I’d grown tired of telling everybody I liked to write and decided to become a writer. So I cut out beer (mostly), started writing for 15 minutes every morning, and developed a weekly post regimen.

Shockingly, the overlaps between my hobbies were uncanny.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

1. “Exercise” regularly.

Writing is exercise, and the only way to get better at it is by doing it. As far as I can tell, there is no secret: no mysterious writing pill made of God-knows-what, no app or tracker that’ll suddenly make you “good.” Just hard work.

Writing is a cheap hobby: a spiralbound notebook costs about $.50 at Wal-Mart, and pens and pencils are basically free. So get up, get out there, and start doing it.

2. “Eat” right.

As I’ve written elsewhere

“…if writing is weightlifting, then reading is a proper diet. One cannot shed fat and gain muscle solely by going to the gym. They need a proper diet to maintain healthy body chemistry.”

In sum, you should be pounding books like a bodybuilder pounds chicken. It doesn’t have to be anything special, and you’re not limited to just one at a time.

And if you’re having trouble finding time to read, then make time. Pick up an audiobook and listen to it during your commute, turn off the TV, or read before you go to sleep. In another post, I called writing “the glue that fills the cracks in my already packed life.” Reading is the glue that fills the cracks in my writing schedule.

3. Bodybuilding results take time. So do writing results.

It’s uncanny how my first six months blogging mirrors my first six months on MyFitnessPal.

I saw immediate growth in my first month, and gains of any sort were enough to motivate me. In my second month, view and post numbers evened out. By my third month, I had lost motivation to write. Looking around discouraged me: everyone else seemed to have more content, more followers, and more feedback, and attaining similar analytics seemed nearly impossible.

But I persevered. After some serious planning and restructuring, I decided to push onward. Since, numbers have climbed back up, eclipsing my initial gains.

But don’t take my word for it. My friend Brad at Don’t Sweat the Recipe has seen similar results:

“Our success story, in a nutshell, is this:

Our first year of building content we made a couple of hundred dollars. [The] second year we made a little over $600. [During] our third year Leigh was able to quit her job to work on the blog full time. We can’t wait to see what year 4 brings us!”

Calm down, stay focused, and stay on schedule. You’ll get there. It takes time.

4. Understand “why” you do what you do.

My friend Eryn, currently cutting for a bikini competition, uttered this truth nugget last week.  I agree.

When writing, there are two levels of “why” you should consider: the “technical” why and the “meta” why.

  1. The “technical” why. Learn the craft. Give a fuck about Oxford commas, learn why everyone hates passive voice, and figure out correct colon usage. Buy a copy of Strunk and White and read it like a Crichton novel. (It’s fewer than one hundred pages and costs a dollar if you buy it on Kindle. If you’re serious about writing, you have no excuse. Read it.)And don’t just stop at Strunk and White. Build yourself a toolbox. Pick up copies of On Writing, On Writing Well, and Reading like a Writer, Carry a steno pad in your back pocket so you can record things people say. Read with a pen and highlighter so you can take notes. Never stop being a student. In the gym, knowing proper technique will help you build bigger muscles and avoid injury. Writing is no different.
  2. The “meta” why. Writing is a lonely job. It’s hundreds of hours behind a desk, watching and reporting, and it’s hard to get motivated sometimes (read: all the time). There’s little glory in it, professionals rarely become recognizably famous, and there’s little money out there for beginners.So–if you’re serious about writing, you need to come up with a reason to write. Think on it, write it down, tear it out, and tape it above your desk. Look at it every morning before you start. Everyone else will burn out after a couple months, but you’ll be there year after year, doing your thing.

Anywho, that’s me this week. How do you write? What’s your routine? Better, why do you do it?

Let me know in the comments.


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5 thoughts on “4 Things Bodybuilding Teaches Us About Writing”

  1. I am constantly scribbling things down on notepads for ideas for posts, some that have potential and others that are really just rants about things that irritate me (like that Subaru that cut me off, slammed on their brakes and sent the car behind me swerving into the express lane to avoid my bumper).

    I agree with a lot of things you said too, it does take a lot of practice. I may not be a body builder (or in any kind of athletic shape) but I read A LOT. I listen to audio books in the car on my way to and from work (reading Tina Fey’s, Bossypants, now- read it, you’ll laugh and be inspired), and I try to read before I go to bed every night, even if it’s just 10 minutes. I like how you’ve related so much in one post, and the whole time I was reading I was like “yeah, me too!”

    Writing is such a great way to let off steam, or feel accomplished! I highly recommend everyone do it, and if you write it in a diary, be sure you hide it from the people you write shit about so they don’t call you out on why you’ve never told them they chew too loud and it makes you want to throw a computer at their face.


    1. I’m glad you identified with it. I was worried the subject would turn off my audience, but it seems that hasn’t really happened. I guess some things are universal.

      Weirdly enough, I almost wrote this post with a gardening focus. The same things that grow plants also tend to grow page numbers: patience, consistency, and care.

      But I guess I had exercise on the brain.

      Bossypants is a fun read. I wouldn’t mind listening to it; Tina Fey is the best.

      As for the diary–personally, I keep a burn book where I write about all the girls in school. Then I share it with my friends, and we cut out their yearbook pictures, glue them in, and write funny, nasty things about them. It’s the best.

      But seriously, keeping a notebook helps me articulate things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It helps me slow down and think about what I believe or want to say. I write slowly, so I have plenty of time between words to determine whether I’m committed to the thought. Even if the world doesn’t see my notebooks, they daily see the effects of writing in them.

  2. The net is filled with post about what to eat what to drink and stuff but very few post about their experiences…. I am constantly on look out for people like this… I am also a bodybuilder and I too write the same mostly with my personal experiences though I recently started writing like just a month back…. May we have more bloggers like this…


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