How Writing Is Like Exercising

The cell phone alarm beeps me into consciousness at 5:20 am. Yes, it’s o-dark-thirty and I’m waking up to go to spin class. Why? That’s a great question. Every day I ask myself the same thing.

Spinning is the equivalent of being forced to walk uphill for sixty miles, through the two feet of snow, barefoot.

Circuit training is on the days when I don’t spin. Lifting weights is like, well, lifting weights. They’re heavy. ‘Nuff said.

Writing is a lot like working out. I love it, and I hate it. It’s difficult to get started, but I feel much better when I’ve done it. Like exercising, writing is a discipline.

Here are some things I’ve discovered through my writing journey:

It takes time. When I began writing in 2008, I didn’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sic-em.’ I needed to learn the craft, study, and practice. Getting better is a long discipline. As in life, I didn’t put on the twenty-five pounds overnight, so they aren’t going to burn away in a year.

It takes a tribe. There’s a core group of women who go to the same gym I do. We encourage each other when we’re flagging, we nag each other into coming back, we follow up when someone has missed more than a couple of days. A few years ago, I discovered the Inspire Christian Writers critique group that meets in Sacramento. We not only help spur one another to be better writers, we’ve become close friends.

It takes discipline. Some writers like word count goals, others page or chapter goals. I write a little differently. I sit down at my computer almost every night, setting my timer for twenty minutes. When the timer dings, I get up and stretch, or get a snack. Then I set the timer for another twenty minutes. Often I’ll find myself ignoring the timer. When I feel like I’m done for the night, I’m done. Sometimes I only write for that first twenty minutes. It’s the same with working out. Without the drive to get healthy, lose weight, or stay fit, it doesn’t happen with discipline.

It takes a good instructor. My spin and workout instructor tells me when I’m lifting incorrectly. He helps me make subtle adjustments to my posture. He reminds me to keep my shoulders down when I’m on the spin bike. In writing, it’s crucial to read books on the craft. Writing conferences are a fabulous place to learn from the best of the best. Take notes, make one-on-one appointments, and make the adjustments so that you can improve and grow.

How do you stay motivated to write every day? Join the conversation in our comments section.

About Jane S. Daly 20 Articles
Jane Daly was awarded the Excellence in Editing award for her book, The Caregiving Season, and two Cascade Awards sponsored by Oregon Christian Writers. She is also the author of Because of Grace (2015). Jane Daly is a California girl living in an Oregon world. She and her husband and two cats relocated to a small town in rural Oregon from a big California city.


  1. Great article, Jane. Good for you and your discipline. I’m more ‘meh’ with a schedule. I do
    work at it daily, with edits, short stories, contacting bloggers, promoting, … and when I’m in the middle of a WIP, actually … writing my next novel. (Working on #5 now).. I admire those with timers or required word counts, but.. after 70+ years of work, writing is now where I go to enjoy, create, connect, and, for me, I want it to stay fun. So that’s my plan… Keep it fun and you’ll keep coming back. Different tactic – same result.

  2. Actually, I have a very hard time writing on a daily basis, so I might try the twenty-minute writing session. And after a while, maybe my own muse will finally take off and I won’t need the twenty-minute bell clanging any more! Thanks for the suggestion, Jane!

  3. Jane, It’s 5:30 a.m. now and I’m checking email before I begin to write. I’ve never been an early bird. NEVER. But I’m motivated to write and finish my book this summer. That means I HAVE to wake up and stay disciplined to write every day. Like exercise, it takes forever for me to get motivated, but once I begin and fall into my zone…..I’m hooked.
    Yesterday, I spent ten hours editing my manuscript. Probably Not a good idea. I need to learn balance. Otherwise it will turn into a feast or famine approach. Very much like dieting. HA

  4. Thank you for your words of wisdom. My life has been jam packed with care giving the last few years. However I think that I could start with twenty minutes and who knows maybe some days another twenty. I never thought of it as a discipline like exercise. It’s not something you want to do you just do it and then are glad you did.

    Thank you this gives me hope and something to look forward to.

  5. This was very helpful Jane. Thank you! I am always encouraged by listening to what works for people like you. I have been very disciplined with exercising, and I have been feeling like I need to be very discipline in my writing habits as well. When I start, I love it! It’s just hard for me to start! My goal is to finish my memoir by the end of this year! Now I need to actually do it!

  6. Hi Group:
    I am new to this site. I live in Yuba City and just retired. I appreciate what is being said in these writing blogs. Keeping active physically as well as in good writing form is difficult and getting distracted with your ‘to do list’ makes it difficult to continue writing. I did not start writing until just before I retired on a regular basis. I toyed with it until the Lord set a direction for me to go.

    I purposely write a to do list which has in it to write or edit. I just returned from my first ACFW Conference in September and learned a lot and met many who have helped me go forward but I need contact with others because it can get to be a drag on the psyche. When I write I try to complete two chapters/day. When I edit I try to complete four chapters/day. However, it becomes a routine without others to critique or talk about it to.

    I bore my wife with my writing time and when I talk abut my characters. Other writers seem to understand the challenges of consistent writing. Some times I try to work on a new writing project but my mind keeps wanting to back to the unfinished work of my first which is close to being finished. I have to force myself to exercise my body.

    In Him,
    Jim Burgess/[email protected]

  7. I would love to write everyday. That is the commitment that I am making to myself this upcoming year. The excercise of writing requires discipline and it does correlate with excercise. When I make excuses to bypass the writing process my spirit feels sluggish, weighty, weak and poor endurance. Thanks for your sharing. Love your blog!

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