Offer your craft two hours a day. Twelve hours a week.
Easy peasy, but it doesn't always happen. The writing comes in gangly fits of productivity. So I was thinking: Why don't I have the focus to regularly perform this act that I spend all my time fussing about? Discipline. I'm bad at it. I added an oath: Exercise every single day for 100 days. The idea was that if I could make my body do the things it didn't feel like doing, then – in my writing cubby – I would know where the switch was, the bio-feedback leverage to pull so I would quit circling the act of sitting and writing and sit and write.
The project goes further than discipline. Of course people have already figured out the connectivity between physicality and artistic endeavor – Mishima – but the act of doing it differs from the concept in that one doesn't necessarily gain understanding. Perhaps it's because the processes call and respond to each other. With fitness – you can easily measure progress; numbers and time, but movement towards writing goals aren't so clear. Word counts don't always reflect progress. However, the number of variables in the actions are something like similar in so much as there are too many unknowns. As it was easier to write the second failed novel than the first one – you can do more pull ups than you could three weeks ago because you understand more of the weight you're trying to hold. Even if you're not altogether sure why it feels lighter - you know how to pull harder.
I've found that the quietness of simple labor can also bring about a clarity of artistic decision. Intrinsically, this quiet can't be reproduced at a laboratory-desk area; you have to mow the lawn or lift weights – hardcore open-eye meditation. Your body and most of your vision distracted – there's a good chance the chatter in your head-space will shut off. Out in the sun, moving the weight of myself and my giant, can-headphones – it's easy to enter a space isolated from the chatter of intellectual distraction – where you're not trying to think of anything except what you're physically doing. Fall off the push-up bar wrong and it's your teeth. Guaranteed time to not think about writing is a thing most of us who spend a good amount of our time thinking about writing should consider.
The writing life has more to it than writing, but for me – finding words seems to be a kinetic act.
This is not to suggest that process can function like an oil-well. There are days that the writing session fails too soon and not much happens. But you did it. You wrote. It's become another thing you do with your time. So when those big ideas come along – you'll be strong enough to reel them in. Your books will get written.
Jake Henson graduated from the MFA @ FAU in 2011. He is a writer, painter, and enthusiast making cool stuff in South Florida.