Five ways writing is like weight loss
With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday eating season is in full swing. If you’re anything like me, you’re trying to figure out how to get to Jan. 1 without gaining five — or more — pounds.
Fret not, because we writers already have the tools we need to win the fight against fat. No, I’m not talking our affinity for chocolate or tendency to spend long hours sitting on our tushes, focused on computer screens.
Those habits’ tendency to tip the scales up notwithstanding, writing and weight loss are a lot alike. Here’s how:
- Let’s start with the obvious: Both require discipline and commitment.
Just like you won’t see progress on the scale if you regularly sneak Twinkies, you won’t have a rough draft to improve on if you don’t have the discipline to sit down and put words on paper. BICHOK — butt in chair, hands on keyboard — is a common refrain running through my thoughts.
- Moderation is key.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know eating binges don’t do anything for your waistline. The same is true of writing. Of course it is possible to binge-write — and some people actually thrive on the pressure. Participants in NaNoWriMo, myself included, can attest to its power in getting down a draft. However, keep up that breakneck speed over the long term and not only are you likely to burn out, but your relationships (and housework) are bound to suffer. Know when to say “Enough is enough.”
- There’s no single right way to do it.
In weight loss, the eating plan that works perfectly for one person may make her neighbor take to the woods to shoot her own dinner. There’s also no one right way to write. Of course there are basics all manuscripts need — a solid plot, characters we can root for, steamy bits (or at least hints at them). But how each of us puts those pieces together to craft a story is all our own. Some are plotters; some are pantsters; some do a little of both. All that matters is the end result: A saleable manuscript.
4. Success is easier with a strong support system.
Dieters need support. Family and friends who don’t push food are good sources, as are resources such as Weight Watchers, Sparkpeople and other online forums. Writers, too, do better with support. National and local RWA chapters are one source. There are also critique partners, beta readers and — for some — agents and editors. It also helps to have a family who understands when you disappear for hours or days at a time to meet a deadline.
- There will be ups and downs.
Only a lucky few will lose weight each week without fail until they reach goal. The same is true of writers: Few, if any, see wild success with their first manuscript. Most likely, you’ll receive word of a contest final one day and get a rejection letter the next. Either way, the important thing is to keep going. Eventually, the ups will outweigh the downs (vice versa for weight-loss).
So hone your craft, practice regularly and seek support when you need it. Writing — and weight-loss — success will find you.
Q4U: Any lessons from life that you apply to your writing career? Share them in the comments below.