Before getting to the tips, what on earth is anaerobic writing?
First, it’s a phrase I made up just now. Second, it plays into my long-held notion that writing is an aerobic activity.
For me, writing is akin to breathing. And there’s such a thing as being in good writing shape. Just like there’s such a thing as being in good running shape. You have to have the muscles and the lung capacity to go the distance. Whether writing a novel or running a marathon.
Up until March I had thought myself in pretty good writing shape. Then, over the past months, I’ve lost both writing muscle mass and lung capacity. What happened? I began to miss the one element in my writing-is-an-aerobic-activity metaphor I had always taken for granted. Oxygen.
The pandemic not only sucked the air out of the economy. It also sucked the air out of my ability to write. My guess is that many – but not all! – of my fellow writers have similarly suffered. Thus, I want to share with you how I have come to deal with my reduced ability.
Anaerobic Writing Tip #1: Recognize Your Condition
The word anaerobic means ‘without oxygen.’ Anaerobic exercise breaks down glucose without requiring oxygen. The upshot is that anaerobic exercise is harder but shorter than aerobic exercise.
For the title image I chose British fencing great Eloise Smith. Fencing is an anaerobic activity. It’s an explosive start/stop sport. It alternates periods of high intensive activity with periods of recovery.
Before the pandemic, as I’ve said, I felt in good writing shape. I had no difficulty keeping to my various projects: making progress on the current shapeshifter story (Money for Nothing, December 2020), posting two blogs a week, working on guest posts. I was in a sustained flow. It even felt easy.
My writing oxygen comes from being in the world and meeting people. I love all travel, both foreign and domestic. Now that I don’t have these sources of oxygen, I’m in an anaerobic writing state. And I’ve now learned to take a fencer’s lunge and thrust at my desk on a regular basis. It feels harder, and I work shorter. But I am adjusting.
I know writers who have felt no change in their writing lives as a result of the pandemic. Lucky you! But for those of us who are affected, the first step is to recognize your state. Then give yourself a break. And modify your work expectations and mindset.
Anaerobic Writing Tip #2: Keep Your Writing Log
Now is the time to start one if you haven’t already!
I’ve long kept a daily log of my writing output. When I’m working on a specific project, the log lessens my anxiety. Especially if I’m having a bad writing day. I can look back at my log and see 20 good days before that. Then I can figure it’s time to take a day off.
I began Money for Nothing on December 6, 2019. By mid-March I was nearly at the half-way point in the manuscript. My output slowed down after that. And I finished the story in mid-July. I wasn’t too worried about the slow-down.
More surprising was what happened to my blog. For the last five years, I had produced two a week, no sweat. For the first nine weeks of the pandemic, I kept it up. Then toward the end of May, I found it harder and harder. I reposted previous blogs if something in the news made them relevant again. Fellow author, Rose Vane, contributed a series on Romanian mythology.
By August my pre-pandemic regular flow of blogs had become a trickle. And then last week I decided to check the last time I posted. And discovered a full month had passed. Between October 20 and November 20, nada. I was shocked. And, as a result, I began to ponder the significance of my oxygen-deprived state.
Now, having confronted it, I’m able to turn it around. I no longer luxuriate all day at my desk. But, during this past week, I’ve lunged at it from time to time, then I’ve pulled back to recover. My writing life doesn’t feel the same as before. But it does feel good to get in a few thrusts on a daily basis.
Anaerobic Writing Tip #3: Find Your Sport
All my images and metaphors for writing are kinetic. Although I sit at my desk, I feel my body is in motion. When I hit a writing block, I get up and take a walk. Once I actually put my body in motion, I’m able to solve my plot/character problems.
Yoga is a wonderful exercise for writers. I’ve practiced it regularly for over twenty years.
The Alpha’s Edge is the prequel to my shapeshifter series. And Buy Me Love is Book I in the series. Both stories involve werewolves. When I was writing them, I added weight lifting to my exercise routine. I wanted to experience my muscles, so that I could more easily inhabit the bodies of these powerful animals.
Now I’m in an anaerobic writing state. In order to improve it, I may well sign up for online fencing.
See also: Write With Vigor: Seven Tips
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen