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Are You At Your Writing Weight?

I’m going to use a boxing (and wrestling) phrase to make a point, so bear with me.

You’ve all heard the term ‘fighting weight’? It references the weight classifications professional boxers compete in. A lightweight is 131-135 pounds. Super lightweight 136 – 140 pounds. Welterweight 141-147 pounds. And so on and so forth. These athletes usually don’t maintain this weight year round, it’s just too difficult. They prefer to train and exercise just prior to the contest to lose the necessary pounds. A boxer will generally try to have the maximum weight possible within the classification he/she is fighting in, as a good boxer will be able to use his weight to his advantage.

Although the phrase originated in the boxing world, it’s really not a practice exclusive to the sport. Most athletes keep up a minimum standard of conditioning during their non-competitive season, allowing their weight to balloon somewhat, then return to their more stringent preparations as the need dictates. The more they allow themselves to slough-off in the off-season, the harder it is to get back to that ‘fighting weight’ they need to be at to compete.

It’s not a stretch to believe that as writers, it’s our minds that should be in tip-top condition to produce material we hope is worthy of publication. There is the physical aspect; increased blood flow to brain cells reduces stress, as well as incidents of depression (writers never experience that…do we). But there is also the cognitive element. That becomes evident in our ability to assimilate information, comprehend relationships, and develop reasonable conclusions and plans. I put to you that it also powers the imagination.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just as guilty of sloughing off with my brain as I am with my body. I’ll have periods where I’d rather watch hours of mindless television, or play robotic video games, then read a good book. Its laziness…pure laziness…and I know it. But I don’t really care because…you see…it’s the off-season.

It’s different when I’m starting a new book. Time to get back into my writing weight. Do you do that? Are you at your writing weight now? Is your mind in tip-top condition?

Am I trying to tell you that you need to jump on a treadmill? A little exercise can never be a bad thing, but that’s not the only way to keep our minds fit. Read. Play chess. Tackle a crossword puzzle. Do something that stimulates your mind and massages that frontal lobe. How do you find the time, you ask? If you’re serious about writing, like the boxer is about fighting, you’ll find time.

Your WIP will be better off because of it.


  1. Wow. You nailed it! I am way in my off season...lets just hope I can get my writing back to its "fighting weight!"

  2. Great comparison. Thanks for the post here. It reminds us all that we can't slack! Not if we want to compete, in the novel-writing world.

  3. Great post, though I might tend to argue that reading isn't necessarily slacking's just another form of exercise, right? Because the best writer is an avid reader?

  4. Your comparison is right on target. For me, a daily writing practice is a must. Back in Jan. '09 I made the first resolution I've ever managed to keep, and that was to write every day. Granted, some days it's just blog posts or short story critiques, but the act of writing creatively keeps me in that zone. And I always have a writing project going, whether it's a short story for a contest or a novel WIP.

    ...Oh, and I go to the gym every morning :)) 'Cause my fighting weight is always five pounds under my current weight :P

    Great post!

  5. This is so true. I waste a lot of time during the day online and not accomplishing anything. Time to change that!

  6. I agree with everyone else. Great post. I find I'm going through "something" at the moment; some kind of metamorphosis of sorts. And it's leading me in a healthier direction (re: writing, body, spirit).

    I know that I definitely have the time for writing - and for walking, eating right, etc. It's just how I choose to arrange my activities in my day. For starters, I've put myself on a strict diet regarding Facebook: only half an hour once a week. And boy, do I feel better!!!

  7. the boxing metaphor is right on. I wish we had a straight up off-season, but too be fair, i'd probably slack off either way

  8. This is a great analogy! I think I'm pretty happy with where I am right now. I've been working my mind a lot more this past year than I have been in a long while. One of my friends just invited me to join a writing group in my town where they critique each other's work and do fun writing exercises/prompts together, so it'll be another chance to "work out." I do get really lazy sometimes too.

  9. I like thinking of writing as boxing--it's more macho!
    I take my off-periods to extremes: watching four TV seasons on DVD in a row, playing games (currently Mass Effect 2) until my trigger finger is sore, and snorkeling/relaxing on the beach without a book. Bad. Of course, I try to dissect story elements in the shows and games to keep my muscles in shape, and I do some writing or editing every day, so there really is no down time. I've always kept my brain active (unavoidable as a scientist), but there is a difference between writing (which is artistic) and logical activities (like chess). The brain is an organ with many different muscles, so you have to work the right ones. No use focusing on upper body strength if you need to run a marathon.

  10. Nope, I'm absolutely not at my fighting weight and I've got a million excuses. I could really use a personal trainer right now, any takers?

  11. Chasing ~ If your motivated enough, you will get there! I have confidence in you.

    VW ~ I hate to think of it as a competition, but we are all vying for the same thing. Regardless, I'll give anyone of you a boost up if you need it.

    Summer ~ I meant as opposed to. I would never consider reading slacking off.

    Nicole ~ I admire your drive. Staying in the zone is what its all about. And if you go to the gym every morning...then I wouldn't want to fight you! :)

    Lisa ~ Little changes soon add up to a whole new perspective.

    Erin ~ Great for you!! Keep it up.

    Falen ~ Everybody needs an 'off-season' sometime, or burn-out will be the ultimate result.

    Karen ~ Thank you.

    Julie ~ Good luck with the critique group. I've heard they can be a great way to nudge yourself out of your comfort zone.

    Lorel ~ I write mysteries and chess helps me develop my logical thinking. Planning moves several steps ahead of an opponent, anticipating counter-moves, are all integral to plotting an intelligent thriller.

    Elena ~ I think in the publishing world, those are called 'Agents'. :)

  12. I'm getting there. Writing everyday. I woke up at five o' clock this morning with the thought, Time to make the donuts.

    And do we have to keep bringing up the treadmill?
    I have to say though, I have remained consistent with it. It really helps clean the crap out of my head and gets my mind reeling with character traits and ideas. But not before I work on my little project sanding away. That's where I take the time to obsess and role play fake scenarios with the people I'm pissed at. Then I'm good and ready to run nowhere fast.

  13. Wow. Great post- it's given me something to think about. I don't think right now I'm there...I'm in the process of revising and it's bring me way down...I really do need to focus more. Oh, and thanks for the lesson on boxing!

  14. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. You just have to decide what is important enough to be time-worthy and what isn't. Project Runway is time-worthy. Other TV shows? Not.

  15. I am most certainly not at my writing weight...I need to get on it...lots of projects...and even more procrastination.

  16. DL, great post. I think you put it well. Staying at weight is one of the big challenges. Writing, for most folks including me is a marathon, not a sprint.

    I think I have some work to do as well.

  17. G ~ Yes...always with the treadmill!

    Kelly ~ Keep your left up. :)

    Bethany ~ Project Runway...really?!?

    Holly ~ It is extremely difficult to stay focused. That's why we all need an 'off-season' every now and then.

    Jon Paul ~ John the crowd! :)

  18. DL--thanks also for the follow. Much appreciated!

  19. I haven't watched TV in forever. Anytime writing isn't happening for me, I pick up a book and read. It's great keeping my brain in top-notch quality.
    I just finished my YA MS last week, just in time for me to find this crazy world of writer bloggers! Stop by mine if you get the chance...

  20. I think everyone could always do more writing...and better writing at that. Do you think writers ever get to the summit? Is the novel ever really done?

  21. heh. The way I try to solve this problem is with games like scrabble on my iPhone. It keeps me thinking :)

  22. Good analogy! I think that I'm going through a little off season compared to where I was just a few weeks ago. I'll admit it--I'm taking a bit of a rest. I'll go through a few scenes, tweak here and there, but I'm not working on a first draft at the moment, so I'm not in my tippiest top shape.

    I'm fairly certain that when editing is done on my WIP come Fall, I'll be able to get back into my writing weight.

    Great post!

  23. good stuff, DL! I think this is why writers' books get better as they keep writing. The ole "write while you wait" advice--even if it's "just" blogging... :o)

  24. A good post to recycle. And timely for me, since I've not been writing anything new lately. Its hard getting back into the everyday swing of things.





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