I’ve been teaching workshops on how to be a blogger for the past three years. They’re four-week courses where we walk through everything from how to structure an effective headline to how to not care when some stranger tells you that your grammar sucks and you shouldn’t be a writer. In the very first class of every section, I make a big deal out of this comparison between writing and going to the gym. I say:
Think of your ability to write as a muscle, just like your butt or your arms or your abs. The first time you head to the gym it hurts. Go more regularly and it gets easier. Exercise every day and it starts to actually feel good/necessary/easy/fun. Take a break for awhile – for whatever reason – and it is hell to get back.
Today is my first day back at the gym in a week, and it is hell. Turns out I’m a good teacher and a terrible student.
Last week was tough for me, brain-wise. I was down about the world. I was down about myself. I had some evening plans that I wanted to skip on account of all the downness, but I went anyway and when I got there said, ugh I need a glass of wine, and then had three and used that as an excuse to not write in the morning. Too much wine…I said to my alarm, and then pretended she said, It’s fine! You needed it! Get those extra Zzzz’s you poor thing!
This is not a tragedy. This is not even a big problem. I’m not going to get into a whole thing about how a week off blogging is the least of our problems because I use that line literally every other line now. Last night at my Oscar party a food pun dish that I did not like won the food pun dish award and I said this is the least of our problems, someone just broke the Oscars, which is the least of our problems, our president banned The New York Times, which is the least of our problems, Russia fixed our election, which is the least of our problems, trans people can’t go to the fucking bathroom. And then I stopped but only because my mouth was dry because I needed a glass of wine the minute I walked into the Oscar food pun party.
But what I wonder now as I sit struggling through this post like it’s a thirty-second plank after a six-week break from yoga (so, a ten-second plank), is whether I’ve been looking at this regular writing thing through the wrong chicken/egg loop.
When I teach slash tell myself that writing is a muscle that needs to be worked to work it’s with the end goal slash prize of more completed work. If you want to get work done then you have to consistently do the work so the work is easier to do so you’re happy doing the work so you want to do the work which makes the work easier to do. Could I have said work more times in that “sentence”? I don’t know because I have a terrible grammar, but a very clear life goal: MORE DONE WORK!!!
But that goal’s real easy to fight if you don’t need to get THE WORK done. No one pays me to write this blog. It’s helpful to my writing career in a million ways, but the only thing that really suffers if I don’t write for five days is me on day six. So I don’t publish a blog post for a week. So what?
I think so I’m unhappy.
I’m realizing as I sit here drinking my coffee in my robe at my desk looking out on my mini patio that I feel happy. My brain is making thoughts and my fingers are typing them up and it’s really a fun little process. Every couple paragraphs I write a sentence that I really like and think being a writer is kind of a hoot. I can envision myself finishing this post in a few minutes and feeling pretty proud. It’s only 7:35 in the morning. I got my ass out of bed and worked through a tough hour and that makes me proud; what a nice feeling to start on, today. I think I’ll do it again tomorrow. And, and here’s the kicker, I don’t even particularly like this blog post. It is, in the grand scheme of my life’s work, meaningless.
But in the grand scheme of my day, I think it’s very meaningful.
I think it would serve me to remind myself that I don’t blog to be a blogger that has a blog with lots of blog posts. WORK WORK WORK. I blog because it serves the flow of my brain slash spirit. I think that’s why some people run every morning or do yoga three times a week. Something about that activity suits their person in a way that serves to keep them more stable, more motivated and more happy. (I know it’s happier. I was doing a word thing).
I think that’s the difference between going to the gym to get a tighter butt versus going to the gym to get endorphins or working out to lose weight versus working out to gain a little time away from it all.
But I don’t really know because I don’t really go to the gym. So maybe I shouldn’t base my entire philosophy of being a writer around it…
Maybe I should re-write the curriculum around on something I know very well: stomach aches.
Here’s the new intro to blogging, class one, lecture one:
Think of your ability to write like a probiotic. You need it to make your whole body…flow correctly. Take it regularly and everything starts to feel better, more regular. Take a break for awhile – for whatever reason – and you get all clogged up again.