Monday, January 27, 2014

How squeezing my thighs, tightening my buns, and getting sweaty makes me a better author

Like everyone else on the planet, I made a new year's resolution that involved exercise. The fact that I made the resolution while devouring a platter of bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and guzzling my fourth glass of red wine means I'm a bit fuzzy on the details of my plan, but that hasn't stopped me from pursuing it.

Here's the thing I've learned about exercise in nearly 40 years on this planet: I suck at it.

Yoga on a standup paddleboard with my dog.
Three forms of fitness in one (plus it was book
research for Eat, Play, Lust.)
Don't get me wrong, I'm a fairly active person. I walk my dog every day, and I love hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and standup paddleboarding as forms of entertainment. I tend to lose interest when something seems like exercise instead of entertainment.

But with a wedding and a 40th birthday on the horizon this year, now seems like a good time to get more serious about fitness.

My current plan looks like something devised by a gym teacher with severe ADD.

Monday is the yoga class I've attended religiously for almost six years. It is the only thing in my exercise routine I am remotely good at.

Tuesday I tell myself I'll ride the stationary bike in my office before dinner. Then I get hungry and decide that if I'm extra-vigorous in chopping vegetables and tenderizing chicken, that counts as a form of physical fitness.

Wednesday is my Barre class, a female-focused mix of pilates, ballet, and weight lifting that's a helluva lot harder than it looks. It holds my attention because the instructor says things like, "Feel that deep in your booty!" or "Everyone grab your balls now!" and I get an extra ab workout by trying (and failing) to stifle my laughter.

Thursday is my Zumba class, which I love because I get to pretend I have mad-sexy stripper moves until I catch sight of myself in the mirror and realize I look like a drunk homeless person caught in a lawn sprinkler.

Bending my elbow counts as exercise, right?
Friday through Sunday I make an effort to drag my gentleman friend snowshoeing or hiking two or three times. We generally make it out of the house once, but I'm pretty sure we get fitness credit for finding alternate ways to work up a sweat.

That's my routine in a nutshell. Besides appealing to my short attention span, there's something about it that resonates with my author self.

The yoga forces me to slow the hell down, breathe, focus, and strengthen my core. It reminds me of those times I find myself anchored to my desk by writer's block and a deadline, convinced I can't possibly spare 30 minutes to walk the dog. The second I leash the beast and set foot outside, the fog in my head clears and I untangle the plot knot I spent all morning chewing at.

The flexibility I allow myself on Tuesdays reminds me that I function best when I don't try to force things. If I have energy to burn, I peddle. If I'm hungry, I make food. As an author, I've learned that if a scene isn't flowing, it's OK to turn my attention to a different scene, or to use my time editing previous chapters or doing research.

Wednesday's Barre class reminds me of the value of laughter, and that sometimes the simplest phrases and tiniest sprinklings of emotion can be the most powerful.

Thursday's Zumba class reminds me to be humble. After nearly a year of doing it, I am, without question, the least coordinated student in class. My classmates sometimes glance at me as though uncertain if they're witnessing a seizure that warrants medical attention. At times I become so baffled by the dance steps that I settle for jumping up and down and waving my arms to keep my heart-rate elevated. But I do it with a smile on my face, and I keep coming back because I know it's good for me to do something so far outside my comfort zone. It reminds me as an author to push myself beyond my perceived limits, and not to hold myself back because I'm afraid of looking like an idiot.

Sometimes, I get the best results by embracing my inner idiot.

Are you with me in setting goals related to writing or fitness this year? How's it going for you? Please share in the comments!

Oh, and if you'd like to learn from my moments of idiocy as a writer, it's not too late to sign up for the South Coast Writers' Conference in Gold Beach, Oregon February 14-15 where I'll be teaching two 90-minute workshops titled, "The top mistakes new authors make (and how to avoid them!)"

Here's the summary (and here's a link to learn more and to register):

The top mistakes new authors make (and how to avoid them!) by Tawna Fenske
It's easy to screw up when you’re getting started as an author. Just ask Tawna Fenske—she’s done it plenty! She's also learned a few things from years of judging contests, critiquing manuscripts, building a career in marketing & PR, and stumbling a few times in her own journey as a published author of romantic comedy. From writing craft to social media, learn the top landmines for newbie writers—and how you can leap gracefully over them.