The key to building muscles, oddly enough, is to regularly and repeatedly expose yourself to pain. Not too much, not too little. Too much—torn muscles, tendonitis, bone spurs—is bad news. Too little is no news at all. Muscles grow when they’re stressed just enough to create micro-tears, producing those “feel the burn” moments that stimulate the body to execute repairs. Result? New tissue forms in the stressed areas, resulting in stronger, thicker muscles. But you have to stress the muscles over and over again for the gains to add up to a permanently changed body, a new you.
Writing is the same. It’s the repeated creative discomfort, the micro-tears, that cause you to grow as a writer. Does it hurt? Good! It needs to. The stages of pain look something like this:
- Writer’s Angst: Wimpy Me: “What if I write crap?” Writer Me: “So write crap—at least you’ll have written. Start now. Feel the burn, baby!”
- Writing Badly: Wimpy Me: “I don’t like what I’ve written!” Writer Me: “So what? This is the vomit draft, remember? Now, heave!”
- Re-Writing: Wimpy Me: “Ew! I hate what I wrote!” Writer Me: “So fix it. It can only get better. Push those edits, fix it all—give me one more rep, two more reps—feel the burn!
Months later… Wimpy Me: “It doesn’t hurt as much now, and the other day someone at my gym (writers group) actually said “Hey, nice body (manuscript)!” Writer Me: “Told you! But you still don’t have six-pack abs (brilliant character development) or massive pecs (rich narrative flow). You might turn out to be a real writer yet. But for now, it’s back to the gym, baby!”
Professional lifters never stop lifting. They live in the discomfort zone and learn to love it. Because they know it’s the key to building their muscles. Professional writers are the same. They live in the literary discomfort zone where they never stop building their creative muscles. They learn to…
Love the burn!
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~Ernest Hemingway
“What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about.” ~Julie Wright
“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” ~Neil Gaiman
“Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” ~Philip José Farmer