When I ask a question like this one, it might sound like a silly riddle alla Lewis Carroll's "How is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?" But trust me this isn't a silly question or riddle meant to confuse you. In fact, this question about walking being like writing came to mind while I was taking my own walk recently. It occurred to me that walking for your health everyday, or most days anyway, is very much like writing. Some days all the conditions are right for a perfect day out. The sun is shining, the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right, and maybe you even start out going downhill. Other days, life is hectic, and the idea of squeezing in that daily walk just seems to add to your stress. But you know that if you don't get moving you'll feel bad later. Especially when you have that big bowl of ice cream at the end of the day to unwind, knowing you've done nothing to keep those calories from being added to your fat rolls.
Does any of this sound familiar in terms of trying to keep to a daily writing routine? Writing, whether it is something you aspire to do or something you must do for your own mental well-being, (those imaginary people in your head won't let you sleep otherwise) is something that only gets better if you do it as much as possible. Unfortunately, most days the stars don't align perfectly, and the inspiration you need isn't always readily at hand when you need it. Like the conditions for outdoor walking, the desire to write can feel like an uphill slog or on the hardest days, up mountain climb. Emerging writers often ask if they need to write everyday to be successful. The general wisdom is, "Yes." A writer should write every single day, especially if they ever hope to get published. But the truth of the matter is, this isn't always possible all the time or even for every writer. While most do stick to a schedule, they don't all stick to the same one or even follow the same tenants of conventional wisdom. In fact, I have heard most authors answer this question by outlining what works for them, but then honestly urging that hopeful writer to develop their own unique routine. The only way to do this is by trial and error. Sort of like the only way to find your favorite walking route, is to try many different ones until you stumble across the trek that fits your level in terms of stamina and agility.
But what if you write and write and write, but never feel like you're getting anywhere? Or you find yourself staring at a blank screen and the words won't come? Should you give up? In the same way you must try to do things to stay healthy, if you want to be a writer you have to find ways to motivate yourself to keep at it. When I find myself procrastinating or talking myself out of going for a walk, I usually know it's because I need to change things up to keep myself motivated. So, instead of walking I think of other ways to get some exercise. Maybe that day I'll do pilates or yoga instead.
The same strategy can work for tackling you're writing projects. Perhaps a change of routine or a different point of view might help. Often, I find ideas and inspiration come to me in the unlikeliest moments. I can be reading a book that is in no way related to what I am working on, and find a solution to a problem I've been having with my own work by reading a single passage that somehow gives me that "Eureka!" moment. Or some days I give myself a free pass on writing and do something else. Coloring, watching Netflix, or even playing a video game can often give my brain the rest it needs and while I'm doing these other activities, give it the chance to work through the issue that's been keeping me stuck. The trick is to know yourself well enough to know when you are doing these other things because you actually need some respite, and you're not just procrastinating. Sometimes that distinction can be hard. It's easier if you compare it to something else you've talked yourself out of doing, like say going for that daily walk, or working out at the gym. Staying in shape is hard work, and it gets even harder when you let your routine slide or stop altogether. Keeping in good writing shape can be just as difficult, but is no less important. So, I guess the take home message for both is, keep at it even when it seems hard. Don't be afraid to change up your routine occasionally to help motivate yourself, and know when you need a break to refresh and rejuvenate.
So long as that break doesn't last too long. After all, you never know what breathtaking view might be waiting for you just around the corner.
Now I guess I'd better take my own advice and get walking--errr...writing.