Staying in Shape – OK, I’m not talking about how many push ups and jumping squats you can do.
I’ve been thinking about the elements of prose and storytelling, and wondering how you keep all of those skills sharp.
Stephen King in his book On Writing talks about carrying around the Grammar Tool Box. He uses a neat metaphor in the book for this, but I’m afraid nothing can really get me all that excited about grammar. I tend to learn it as I need it, then let myself forget it – after which point it becomes instinctive. I usually only need to research grammar once in a blue moon.
What started me off on all this was reading about competitive athletes and how they stay in peak condition. Then I was thinking, ‘What is peak writing condition?’
My first reaction was that time is the critical issue. I you asked a sprinter what he was going to do with the first hour of his available training he is going to answer ‘sprinting’ . It’s only the tenth or twentieth hour where weight training, cross training or stretching start to come into the balance.
So – assuming you do have ten or twenty hours to actually write, what would you do with part of this time to stay in condition? I guess it’s all about filling in the gaps – literary cross-training. If you are writing novels, write some short prose to hone your skill and rein in the wordiness. If you are writing third person, try first person. If you are scratching to get the words out – remove the mental barriers and give yourself permission to write anything as long as the words keep flowing, even if you are typing out the blurb on the back of a cereal box. If you are a pantster – try plotting. If you are an obsessive plotter – try letting the narrative take over.
How do you stay in Writing Shape? What else could help to increase Writing fitness, or do you just need to get the words out? Do you do any deliberate work to hone writing skills?