Last May I was overweight and hypertensive, and I was unhappy about needing medication for a preventable cardiac risk. As serendipity would have it, I met a nutritionist while on a writing assignment for an outdoor magazine, and she recommended the book, 100 DAYS TO WEIGHT LOSS by Linda Spangle.
Two-hundred and twenty-eight days later, I’m twenty pounds lighter, my BMI is under 25, my blood pressure is back to normal without medication, and I’ve learned that there are many similarities to losing weight and writing a novel, most notably – persistence.
Spangle writes that people typically give up on a plan for diet and exercise after only three or four weeks – because life gets in the way. While I am constitutionally incapable of not writing regularly, I can lose track of my novel under all the other writing tasks on my desk.
Sometimes, I put writing for broadcasts, columns, and clients ahead of my book. Sure, some of these tasks come with deadlines and a paycheck, and there are days (okay, weeks), when the prospect of ever seeing my novel complete (let alone in print) seems bleak. This kind of thinking can be a self-fulfilling prescription for failure – just like the defeatist thinking I used back when I’d punish myself for straying from a strict diet with a dish of ice cream by finishing off the pint.
The first time I worked my way through the 100 DAYS of motivational exercises, I committed to “just one more day” every day – even on days I wanted to give up and eat an entire bag of chips. By the time I hit Day 100, I’d lost over ten pounds. So I started over, and did the exercises again. I’m now going through the book for the third time – not because I need to lose any more weight, but because I can apply these same lessons to helping me finish drafting Ellen, a novel I’ve been working on longer than I like to admit.
I have a greater understanding now that some days will be better than others. Some days I will write well; other days, not so much. Some days I’ll want to quit, and I’ll even welcome unplanned life events (a leaky roof, a lost dog, an unexpected visitor) as an excuse to skip writing, just as I used to welcome a dinner party as an excuse from self-control.
What I’ve learned in the last thirty-three weeks of weight loss is that I can not only tackle a difficult task by working at it day after day, I can succeed – as long as I don’t give up.
What strange places have you found motivation to keep writing?