I’m not a bodybuilder, by any stretch. I don’t compete as an athlete in any sport, nor do I have any intention of doing so. I was running regularly, but after not seeing a curb under fallen leaves I’ve got an ankle that feels like fire ants are devouring it. So I’m on the elliptical instead of the road for a bit. I’ve also added more weight training to my exercise routine. I particularly like using free weights, because I have to stabilize the weight as well as lift it. That makes me focus more on what I’m doing, and lift more consciously. It’s a style of working out that feels better for me.
I’m 6’2” and not thin, but moving to the part of the gym I wanted to start using was intimidating at first. Many of the people there DO compete, some professionally. For me time in the gym is about feeling good and keeping healthy, for some of them working out carries much more importance. They’ve made a commitment that translates to working out more in a day than I do in a week. Stepping onto their turf was a little uncomfortable at first, but once I started my regimen I stopped caring what others think. Doesn’t even matter if they’re really sneering, or if I’m just self-conscious. While I’m working out I stop thinking about others; I’m too focused on completing my sets and not hurting myself in the process. When I’m done I’m too tired to care, and feel too good about the workout to be interested in other’s opinions, real or perceived.
This was on my mind because, a week into November, I’ve become more conscious of various posts and tweets disparaging the concept of NaNoWriMo and the variations thereof. They’re similar to the blog posts that circulate every so often attempting to define what makes a writer a “real” writer. Some carry the general assumption that those who participate imagine they’ll shit out a 50K draft, throw it up on Amazon and think they’ve achieved something. These are the author equivalent of the meathead who doesn’t think you’re working out if you bench less than 300 pounds. They’re the elite runner annoyed you’re clogging the 10K by jogging to raise money for your kid’s soccer team. Because of course, even within the world of creative types, there are those who behave exactly like stereotypical jocks sneering at nerds. In the early stage of any project self-consciousness makes they’re brand of noise seem louder than it really is.
I’m not a professional writer of fiction. I’ve never gotten a check for writing an original story, and I might never see a dime for any fiction I write. But this year I began writing a book, and this month I’ve committed to spending fifteen solid minutes on in every day (hat tip to the fine people participating in NaWri15Mo with me, good job everybody!). A week in and I’ve far exceeded that goal each day. I plan on continuing that pace even beyond this month, until I achieve my personal expectation for that book. I’m doing it because I get something out of it personally. Just like I don’t let actual or perceived sneering jocks stop me using the weights I want to, I’m not going to let actual or perceived haughty auteurs look down their nose at my word count. You shouldn’t either.
Stick with your commitment to yourself, whatever it is. At the end of the month you might decide writing’s not your thing. That’s OK. Some people commit to the work to become a pro, elite-level athlete, some people just like to jog. The only way something will click for you is if you let whatever you’re futzing with get under your skin. That’s when a lark turns into a hobby before becoming a lifestyle or even a profession, if that’s your goal. You picked your project, you chose to start down this path, you get to define what finishing looks like.