Writing and bodybuilding appear entirely different. One is a mental craft; the other is a physical one. But practitioners of both arts have similar habits — because both require insane dedication if one wants a chance at mastery.
Bodybuilders exercise consistently. If they don’t, their muscles get smaller and weaker, which means taking a step backward. So they exercise whenever they can, usually six days a week, because they need a rest day to recover physically. Whenever there’s an opportunity for them to lift weights, they do it; after all, the more they lift, the more their muscles grow.
The same idea manifests in writing. ‘Write every day’ is the most given advice in our community. But this advice can be broken down into: build habits and work whenever you can. Writers follow this because if they don’t, like bodybuilders, their ‘writing muscle’ gets weaker.
A routine is essential for both bodybuilders and writers — and the consistency becomes a form of mesmerization. It becomes easier to live in the box that your craft demands from you when you’re accustomed to it. After getting into a routine, a bodybuilder can focus on lifting weights, and a writer can focus on getting words onto the page.
Most bodybuilders rest one day per week, not because they want to, but because they have to. If they don’t take that rest day, their bodies wouldn’t have time to recover and grow, and they would make less progress. So they rest whenever they need to. And ‘need’ means whenever it will create more growth.
When I started writing seriously, I took ‘write every day’ literally. I didn’t take a single day off, which quickly made me burn out. I started writing easy topics instead of what inspired me. Sometimes writing more means making less progress; sometimes, resting creates more progress.
But it’s a slippery slope. You lose the habit if you rest too much; you burn out if you rest too little. Masters of bodybuilding and writing have perfected this balance. They know when to stop, without stopping too much.
Bodybuilders don’t just lift weights; they also eat and — in the competitive scene — inject steroids. But the combination of food and hormones isn’t a buffet. It’s a meticulously planned diet to get the mix of nutrition that will make them as big and lean as they can be. And so bodybuilders do a lot outside of lifting, but how does this relate to a writer?
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
― Stephen King
Reading is the most important activity for a writer to do outside of writing. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t read, and I dare you to name one. But us writers can do more than just read to improve our craft. We can take classes; we can talk to other writers; we can explore the world for new ideas. We can’t always be writing, but when we’re not, we can do other things to make our writing better.
Bodybuilders use a ‘deload week’ to rest without taking days off. It’s a temporary reduction in training to reduce mental and physical stress. There are different ways to deload, but a popular one is to decrease the volume of exercises by 50%. Bodybuilders use these planned periods of rest after anywhere from 4–10 weeks.
If you’re continually striving for a daily word count, try a deload week and decrease your word count. To copy a bodybuilder, decrease the daily number of words by 50%, reducing mental stress without losing your routine. If you’ve been consistent for an extended period and are burnt out from writing, a deload week might make it fun again.