I used to be a pretty good athlete, decades ago. In high school I was the Oklahoma state champion in the pole vault 2 years running, and took second place another year. Over the years, I’ve kept in shape by approaching workouts like eating, or sleeping: something that has to be done almost every day, no matter how small or insignificant the workout might seem.
After the holidays, getting back into the gym can feel demoralizing. Whereas before the break you might have been running 3, 4, even 5 miles a day on the treadmill, after all of the eggnog, turkey and chocolate from Xmas you’re lucky to get 1 or 2 in. I used to beat myself up about a bad day at the gym, which would make me want to go there less and less, until I realized that the important thing is not “how hard” you work out when you’re there, but just that you motivate to get yourself there in the first place.
Writing is very similar. Some nights I pound out 1,000 words in nothing flat and feel great – others I goof around in my notebook writing down vague ideas that may never turn into anything at all. The important part is not “how much” you’re getting onto the page, the important part is just showing up at your desk in the first place, ready to think about writing, ready to actually write, ready to edit, ready for whatever happens.
Someone told me once about a playwright who would write for at least an hour, every day (I can’t remember his name). One day he sat down to write and wrote “The …” – then paced in his office for 60 minutes, finally finishing the sentence “… hell with it.” But at least he was there, ready for the lightning bolt, should it strike. Ready to run with it if the ideas were flowing.
In a surprising development, my writing regimen is cutting into my running regimen. I’ll need a new belt soon at this rate.