An interesting study out of Hamilton, Ont. this week as reported in the New York Times, shows that one minute interval training can be even more effective that longer, steadier work-outs in improving your overall fitness level. When it comes to working out, less—provided it's flat-out 100% effort—can be more. Of course, long bouts of moderate cardio exercise are also still great for you, so my overall deduction is that a combination of both approaches is the best of both worlds. The same, I believe, is true of writing.
Writing a thesis or a book is like a long, steady cardio workout. You might chat with a friend as you are completing it. You will sweat a little but not often profusely. You will take breaks for food, water and rest, and while you will make progress, there are times it feels like the end is beyond reach.
That's why writing bursts, like blogging or short writing exercises, are so important. They rapidly strengthen the writing muscle. As importantly, they make you feel productive. Free writing, with or without intention to publish, can be wonderful unblocking exercises. I recently picked up Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and she offers some excellent suggestions for free writing including thinking about a colour, walking around a room for several minutes noticing this colour in your environment, and writing about it. Another idea is to crack open a fortune cookie and write for seven minutes on a topic inspired by the fortune. I also find Twitter is great practice in snappy, succinct writing.
I am a person that needs a lot of physical exercise. Sure, it's great for my health but I find it can be time-consuming too, especially as I am typically drawn to slow, steady activities like hiking and distance running. However, understanding the need for cardio bursts I mix it up with activities like weight lifting, soccer, tennis and kick boxing.
Similarly, I seem to need to exercise that writing muscle a lot, too. The longer projects happen behind the scenes while many of the shorter workouts happen for me in social media and here on my web site.
What kind of a writer are you: a marathoner or sprinter? Please share your best strategies for fit writing.