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The two keys to build a writing habit

What I've learnt from running with George

Are you sick and tired of people telling you that writing is a matter of practice and you need to do a bit every day? You know they're right, but for one reason or the other you keep avoiding it. Writing every day is easy, if you know how to do it and where to start. I discovered this secret when I started running.

In this post I share with you my findings about how the running techniques have helped me improve my writing.

Running and writing, not so different

These two activities have a lot in common. The first that come to mind are:

  • Need very little (at the beginning): just your computer, or a pen and paper for writing, a pair of running shoes for running. In spite of this fact, the truth is that they are also:
  • Difficult to start with: the first days both seem almost impossible, because you get tired really fast.
  • Need to become a habit: one single day leads you nowhere, you need to persevere and be constant.
  • Highly rewarding in the long run: if you persevere both will make you feel really good about yourself. 

But the difficulties named above are just the visible ones. There are two hidden enemies that keep you away from what I will call from now on your wrinning goals. Let's discover them!

The worst enemies from the best intentions

I've always wanted to be a runner, and I've always known (very deep inside) that I was a writer. But for hidden reasons I didn't seem to be able to perform neither of them. After lots of soul searching, I've discovered that my good intentions had two powerful foes:

Unrealistic expectations

I saw myself running happy and confident through the parks, and writing as easily and quickly as Angela Lansbury at the intro of A murder, she wrote (I specially love her proud sigh when she pulls out the paper in 00:38'). In my mind I was focused, brilliant and happy because I had good results in no time with no effort. These images were projected by my inner Perfectionist (more about him in THIS POST). I wasn't aware that beautiful as they were, they generated a huge hidden FEAR OF FAILURE, because deep down I was sure that I would never be able to make this images become true. This was confirmed by a single first desastrous first and last session.

Fear of the unknown

My only reference were those images, but I knew nothing about how things were going to be in the real world. I had no clue what to do during my writing/running sessions. It was like starting a trip to a wonderful land, knowing just that to get there I had to go outside. The rest of the process whas so dark and scary that I perfered to postpone the whole thing for when I felt stronger and more confident (= never).

I went on like this for years, until I found on Amazon the George Anderson's book: Beginners luck guide for non runners. The title sounded so promising that I decided to give it a try. The author is more than just a runner giving tips about this sport. I've been subscribed to his coaching mails for more than a year now, and he always brightens my days with his humour and his positive mindset. In the book he gives a valuable advice about how to overcome the above mentioned foes of productivity. I've applied them to my writing routine and it works wonders. Let's find out what the keys to effective wrinning are.

The two keys that will help you improve

The beauty of Anderson's method is its simplicity. He gives you two keys, that are really valuable.

The Golden Key: running slow= focus only in writing

This key helps you go past unrealistic expectations, because it is made of a much better material: attainable goals. The aim of the beginner is just run, or just write. You don't have to do it very fast, nor write bestsellers. Just find a pace you can stand and keep going.

I've discovered that the most realistic expectation you can have when you write is just be capable of sitting and write something. It doesn't matter how it is written, as long as it is written! Simple as that: just write.

The Silver Key: gradual effort

We know we can't do all at once. Nevertheless, we tend to forget it. Having a plan where you can see how to increase your effort little by little, makes you feel capable of doing it.

To alternate activities that take different degrees of effort is the key to build up stamina. If you're running, you'll need to run and jog. If you're a writer, you'll need to write and breathe, dance, listen to music ... whatever makes you feel good and relaxed. That's it. You can start with just 1', and then 1' relaxing.

George Anderson made a wanderful printable program that works. I say it, because I've tried it: I went from running 1 minute to 30' in a few weeks. Without losing my breath! I intend to emulate and adapt this plan to my own writing techniques. Subscribe below to get it when I have his permission!

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