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Writing Weight

I'm at the precipice of taking a deep dive into WIP revisions, so I've been contemplating what needs to happen to nudge me over the edge.  That got me thinking of a blog post I wrote in 2009 that is still extremely relevant, so I thought I'd share it with you today.  I’m going to use a boxing (and wrestling) metaphor 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 maintain just a minimum standard of conditioning during their non-competitive season, allowing their weight to balloon somewhat, then they return to their more stringent preparations as the sport season 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 consider that as writers, it’s our minds that should be in tip-top condition to produce material we hope is worthy of publication.  For me, however, there is a direct correlation between my physical condition and my mental one.  The better I feel...the more creative I am.  That's no surprise because increased blood flow to the brain (from exercise) 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 it to you that it also powers the imagination. 

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, play nonsensical video games, or giggle at stupid Youtube video's on the computer, anything other than something like engaging my brain with a really good book.  Its laziness…pure laziness…and I know it.  But I don’t mind so much because…you see…it’s the off-season.

It’s different when I’m starting a new book (or I'm about to revise one).  Time to get back into my writing weight.  How many of 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?  No, but a little exercise can never be a bad thing and it’s not the only way to keep our minds fit.  Read -- a lot.  Play chess.  Tackle a crossword puzzle.  Have a coffee date with some of your writing friends and talk about books. 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.

And if you haven't already, don't forget to vote for your favorite writing sample in bout 12 & 13 of WRiTE CLUB


  1. I spend all day with a three and four year old. My mental level seems to settle to theirs most days. Maybe that's why it takes me so long to write a novel.

  2. So agree about the exercise. We sit way too much with writing, blogging, and work. I go in spurts in my writing too.

  3. I just wrote about watching tv the other day (won't post til next week.) Monster goes back to school tomorrow so I'll be able to have a few hours to myself everyday. I'm going to start walking again with the dog.

  4. Physically I'm in shape, writing-wise, not so much.

  5. We all need those mental breaks - I think it boosts our creativity in the long run. :)

  6. Exercise and good health clear the mind. I've been trying to hit the treadmill more often and look forward to cooler weather so I can run outside.

  7. I usually read a lot, but lately I've been so busy that I haven't been able to. It's been driving me nuts :)

  8. Having problems I haven't written so much but hopefully that has changed for the better,


  9. I'm trying to write and revise more regularly so I don't have to do crazy sprints like the one I did this past weekend! Get that "writing weight" down! I'm excited to see what happens!

  10. For me, it's plain and simple. Write, walk, think (in any order.)

    To be at my "fighting weight" I write every day. I write notes in longhand, comments on blogs, blog posts, and lately I've been plugging along at my WIP. When I binge on television (Damn you, Netflix!) I get what I call brain sludge. It's a nasty by-product of the flattening process. Y'know ... those grooves in the frontal lobes getting smooth and useless.

    Walking for its own sake without an iPod, or being blue-toothed to a phone a la the Borgs in Star Trek is essential for any writer who is capable of doing it. I have days when my knees hurt ( I've come late to the writing life, therefore ... I'm sort of old,)but I do it. That's because walking is something intrinsically human and as D.L said in his post, exercise in general gets the blood flowing. Walking promotes thinking. Thinking promotes re-grooving. Goodbye, sludge! Hello, fighting weight!

    (The theories regarding brain-groove-flattening, sludge, and the effect of Netflix on sludge promotion OR the effect of walking/thinking on sludge mitigation aren't scientific ... but SHOULD be!)

  11. Hey D.L....Great post! So, are you telling us that you've been working on your writer weight since 2009? Or even before then? That makes me feel a lot better!
    If writing blog posts and commenting on others' counts as writing, then I write every day, too. BUT, I've been in a standstill for quite a long time, as far as my "real" writing goes. Too many reasons/excuses about that to go into here!
    Thanks for always making it way-more-than-just-worthwhile to stop here! :)

  12. I've gotten myself into an exhausting pattern. I haven't played a video game in almost 3 months. Have only watched maybe 3 movies. I work two jobs, hit the gym four times a week and write on average 2500 words a day.
    This had BETTER be my competitive-season... Because I miss sleep, games, movies, friends, shows, outside!!

  13. I'm working on first draft of WIP#2 and I keep myself "fighting fit" by staying away from most television programs.

    My reasoning? The writers of those shows have already made it. Why should I waste my time watching *their* hard work, when I need to complete my own projects...

  14. Great advice- and just what I needed to hear to get me off my lazy butt.

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  16. i've been voting and loving all the bouts!! i'm currently in revisions,too. agh!!!

  17. I've been in the off season for way too long. Sometimes I just let life get to me.

    Oh man, I don't remember the last time I commented or on a bout. Aaargh!


  18. I'm so glad you shared this post again because it really resonated with me today. I am so far from my writing weight! I can't seem to get out of my slump but this has inspired me to get on the writing treadmill and start working.

    Have a great weekend, DL.

  19. Oh, I really like this analogy. :) My plan is to finally finish off 1st draft of Ch. 12, then bop down to the basement for a cardio workout, shower (for the sake of my family), and then jump into Ch. 13. Sounds like this fits well w/ Plan D.L. ;)




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