Sitting on my spinning bike this morning, listening to the instructor belt out advice on how to “get to the top” of the metaphorical hill, it struck me how much exercise and writing have in common.
As my face grew hot and sweat trickled into my eyes, I fought to stay where I was, to not bag it and head to the shower. That nagging little voice that tries to protect me from failure (but ultimately protects me from success) made the ride hard for the better part of twenty minutes. Somewhere near the top of the “hill” I saw what was happening, how warped my thinking is about my power to live in a better body and be a successful writer.
In that moment of complete clarity, I placed my D’s (distractions, drama, difficult people) in my review mirror and told them to eat my figurative “dust.” I replaced my old recorded message with a new one: All I have to do is stay on the bike for an hour. I can do anything for an hour. As I powered up my legs, and pushed to the finish, I pictured the problems and people shrinking behind me in that cloud of dust. On the other side of the hill, I could see a slimmer, toned, and more vital future me; a me that was sitting at a table stacked high with my latest best seller.
Forty minutes later, I climbed off the bike, exhilarated. I stayed on the bike for an hour! Characters for a novel that I have kicked around but seem to not be able to pin down began to materialize. I often get my best ideas in the garden, the shower or at the gym. The problem is that I often leave them where I found them. I moved to the weight machines and lifted, working hard to tone my muscles, layered as they are under excess winter fat. As I lifted, I thought about the flexibility and strength of writing muscles and what we layer over them.
Becoming overweight is not an accident. We turn our frustrations or lack of energy into powerlessness and give up. We stop eating right and exercising. We replace our vision of ourselves with that of a powerless, undeserving person. As the pounds pile up, our reflection in the mirror seems to confirm our worst opinion of ourselves. We do the same thing with our writing. We don’t write because we fear we are not good enough to publish, or because our day jobs make us tired, our kids, pets and television need us more than we need to write. We buy into the notion that it’s just too hard to publish; that we will never achieve recognition or success or be great writers. Pretty soon, our writing muscles are flabby and buried under layers of negative self-talk, insecurity and detachment. Our writing image reflects exactly what we put into it. The hope of having a successful writing career is often dashed by an industry that tells us we have little to no chance of ever being successful, and even if we are, we can’t give up our days jobs if we want to survive financially.
I say piffle to that idea! I refuse to believe that writers are powerless because the writing “hill” is too challenging to navigate. We have power. We just don’t always recognize or own our power. Amanda Hocking is a prime example of an unknown writer who became highly successful on her own through self-publishing thanks to visionaries like Smashwords founder, Mark Coker. Coker created a platform (www.Smashwords.com) on which writers can build their careers through self-publishing one book at a time. According to Wikipedia, Hocking worked a day job and wrote 17 novels in her spare time. She averaged selling 9000 copies of her self-published e-books per day in 2011, earning $2,000,000 without the help of an agent or a traditional publisher. The industry came calling after she became successful.
The publishing industry doesn’t have a crystal ball or a magic formula for which writers will or won’t succeed. I may never wear a bikini, but that’s not why I spin or choose to eat in healthy way. I do it because I owe it to myself to live an authentic life in a healthy body. I write because writing is integral to who I am as a person. Amanda Hocking clearly didn’t buy into the “never-going-to-be-a-success” idea either. She owned her writing power and created her own opportunity for success by doing something that is within any writer’s power to do. She stayed in the chair. And we can do it, too. Power up our writing legs and stay in the chair. Even if it’s just for one hour. We can do anything for an hour. We can leave negativity, our sense of powerlessness and the notion that success is an élite club for a select few in our review mirrors, eating our collective dust.