No, this isn't a Nike commercial. But when it comes to writing, running (or any kind of exercise program), or setting up a new personal goal on a daily basis, it JUST makes sense.
Just Do It
Just Show Up
Just Be There
Just Invite the Muse
Just Run (Hey, my favorite running specialty store is called Jus' Running...)
In the book referred to me by my dad (and then later by a co-worker), Younger Next Year, the authors say when it comes to exercise, just show up. If you want to be healthy for the rest of your life and be younger next year and live like you're 50 until you're 80 and beyond, then show up 6 days a week and exercise. Just show up. Showing up is half the battle.
So that should be easy enough advice to apply to writing, right? The thing is, you have to know what writing is and what it isn't. Walking or running (or both) on the treadmill is certainly exercising. It's SHOWING UP. Dawdling, spending ten minutes to get clothes and shoes on, spending five minutes to drink water and fill up a water bottle, spending ten minutes to stretch, getting sidetracked by first taking out the trash or putting away last night's dishes, spending five minutes to look for your watch, blowing your nose (again) is NOT showing up. You want to run? RUN! You want to write? WRITE!
Here's how SHOWING UP in writing looks: you pull out your manuscript, quickly reread over the last chapter or page or paragraph, make a few notes, write a couple changes, reword a few sentences, add another scene, think about what the character will do next, write a few more paragraphs while trying to figure out the best possible ending. OR you have the first draft done and now it's time to incorporate all your critique group's comments. You've already read through them. You write the ones down that make sense to you and you incorporate them into your ms because you agree with them. The might be simple suggestions such as word choice, grammar, syntax, punctuation, names, verbs, etc. Or they might go deeper and ask profound questions such as why is your character acting that way, what might a better ending be, suggestions for how to move around scenes or new ideas to help the story become stronger. To me, revising IS writing! Or maybe you're composing a cover letter or a query letter to send to an editor or agent. That's still writing. JUST SHOW UP!
But if you're anything like how I've been lately, I "say" I'm writing, but I'm really just "still putting on my socks." Composing a blog post. Checking and answering e-mail. Writing a list of people to contact about a contest. Reading other people's blogs. Commenting on blogs. Tweeting about my contest on twitter. Reading book reviews. Looking at the pictures in a picture book. Planning future blog posts. Critiquing others manuscripts. Glancing in my market book. Wondering which running race I should enter next. Entering a book giveaway. And, oh yeah, I'm supposed to send out two manuscripts this month. When am I ever going to get those cover/query letters written? I'm all out of time. If I don't get to bed right now, I won't wake up to go running. So now I'll make a quick list of SPECIFIC tasks to accomplish the next time, preferably the next DAY, like actually revising my latest letters and putting the first publisher's addresses on them so I can actually print them out and mail off my two mss for the month.
Get it? Got it? Good! SHOW UP!!!
Keep on keepin' on...