Writing can be a sedentary endeavor. Hours upon hours are spent at a keyboard, churning out tens of thousands of words you hope someone other than yourself may read in the future. You can get lost in the work as your mind descends deeper and deeper into a story and your body sinks deeper and deeper into a desk chair.
Oscar Wild did not follow this plan. Now he’s dead. Do the math.
The task of writing a book may take months or even years and if you aren’t careful, your physical conditioning will suffer and you will not be prepared for what’s to come. So, I present to you the Writer’s Fitness Program.
When in the early stages of piecing together a manuscript, it is easy to get tunnel vision. You cannot see much else other than what is directly in front of you and little attention is paid to what will come at you in the future. The following exercises will undoubtedly* keep you from getting injured and prepare you for the trials laid before you.
(*I actually have no idea. “Undoubtedly” just sounded good in my head.)
First off – Curls
Writers like to drink. Now before you jump to any conclusions, many authors don’t drink alcohol. I mean, I don’t actually know any of those people, but I’m sure they exist. Regardless, they don’t always drink alcohol when they write (probably). During the course of writing a book, authors will continuously sip away from their mug, glass, goblet, or chalice (possibly depending on the genre) and the sipping will be done mindlessly. Before you know it, your arms are tired from all the typing and sipping and do you know why? DO YOU?
You are suffering because you didn’t train, so don’t make this mistake. Go find yourself some dumbbells and crank out some curls. The amount of weight and number of repetitions will depend on both your current fitness level and the amount you anticipate drinking during the writing of your book.
For instance, if you are writing a nonfiction account of a WWII battle, then you can probably get by with doing two sets of 15 repetitions using 10 lb weights. If you are writing crime fiction ;and not setting the book in New York City or using the word “Girl” in the title, plan on buying really heavy weights and try not to break any toes when they slip out of your character-killing hands.
Make sure your beverage can make it to your mouth.
Next up – Rows
Writers are usually their own worst critics. I say “usually” because there’s always that one guy who leaves a 1-star Amazon review because on page 52 of your last novel you called a gun a “pistol” instead of a “sidearm” and the guy thought “sidearm” would have sounded much more official. Anyway… throughout both the writing and editing processes, you will certainly throw your arms up in disbelief more times than you can count. Imagine your embarrassment when you pull a muscle while propelling your arms to the sky when you realize you named one of the characters after your favorite cousin and now you realize you have to kill him off. The character, not the cousin. Don’t kill your cousin.
Knock out a few rows and firm up those shoulders and back. This exercise has the added benefit of toughening up your abs, which will come in handy when you see your cousin at the next family reunion and he punches you in the gut for having his namesake pushed in front of a locomotive.
Don’t injure yourself with shrugs of frustration.
Also – Deadlift
Some writers, don’t ask me why, like to print out and keep their rejection letters in a box. While I’ve never done this, I’m certainly accumulated my share of rejections from literary agents and publishers. I’m fairly sure if I were to print them out and place them in a storage container, I would need to borrow a forklift if I were to ever want to move them. However for those more fortunate, perhaps the box is lighter. My incorporating deadlifts into your workout, you can ensure you don’t add injury to the insults.
Rejection hurts. But, it doesn’t have to HURT.
Finally – Punching
Nothing eliminates frustration like the act of hitting something repeatedly. I know several writers who practice martial arts or box. However if you prefer to hit and not get hit (not an unwise practice), then go beat on a heavy bag. It’s good cardiovascular exercise, a stress reliever, and you almost always win the fight. If you don’t win, don’t tell anyone. The act of punching may also help you with your manuscript as it serves as a reminder that most people cannot knock out another person with one punch. It’s not that simple, yet it still shows up in novels and on television. It just doesn’t happen that often and I don’t know why people keep writing it into stories. KNOCKING A PERSON UNCONSCIOUS IS A HARD THING TO…
Great. Now I’m frustrated and I need to go punch something.
Or do some curls.
Where is my chalice?
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.
In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.
Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission. Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology