You are probably wondering how training for a marathon could help me become a better writer. The two are quite different, but yet amazingly similar in their approach. In order to run a marathon, I trained hard by putting in the miles day after day. Then towards the last few weeks of training, I dedicated several hours a week to running. The reward came after several months of training, race day. The anticipation of the race and the pure elation when crossing the finish line and I worked so hard to complete.
Now compare training for a marathon to writing. Not a physical challenge, but instead a mental one. It remains, however, just as much of a time commitment. For me, a closet writer, I’ve worked in the corporate environment as a copywriter writing direct mail packages, literature and corporate communications. I’m now dedicating more time to writing articles. As an aid, I’ve developed a writing training plan, much like what I used to help me complete my first marathon last fall.
I’ve never been much of a planner, but when training for a marathon I had a calendar outlining the number of miles I needed to run each day. I really stuck to this plan. It was great to have a goal so clearly outlined for each day of the week. The plan allowed me to enjoy a sense of accomplishment as I completed the mileage goal for each day. Without the plan, I believe I would not have achieved my goal of running a marathon.
As with any physical training program, it starts out slow. And as time went on, the time dedicated and miles grew. Hours on the trail running 20 miles, gave me the time to think and made me feel so alive.
I know from experience that the more time I dedicate to writing, the easier it is. Words seem to flow effortlessly. Or when training for a marathon, the first 10-mile run is difficult, but by the end of training, a 10-miler was a piece of cake. Writing can be the same way, if you stay focused and dedicated to the task at hand.
The first part of the writing plan is to determine your writing goal and writing race day. For me my goal is complete at least three articles for publication with the hopes of having one published in a publication by the end of my 12-week training program. For you, your goal may be to complete a short story, your first e-book or to become a more proficient writer. No goal can be too big or little, just use this as your ultimate objective and use the writing training plan to help you get there. Make your writing race day far enough away to allow you to achieve your goal, but not so far that you can put writing off for a few more months.
Week One – 2-3 hours writing per week (20-30 minutes a day). Start out slow. Much like training for a marathon, the first week is really building on the fitness level you are currently at. Use this first week to hone your writing skills. Just set aside at least 20 minutes a day to write. Don’t worry about the topic, just write. For me, I find just writing free without worrying about grammar or spelling helps. I just let random thoughts pour out on paper. That’s fine. The purpose of the first week is really to get you in the practice of writing regularly. At first, the words don’t even matter so much. Just write. Don’t stop to correct typos – let the words pour from your mind. You will have time for editing later. And don’t let the thought that you have nothing to write about stop you. Pick any topic and just write. The key is to get into the practice of writing and writing often.
Week two – 2-3 hours writing/week (20-30 minutes a day) With your end goal in mind, try to tailor your writing to your topic. If you are unsure of your topic, take the time this week to find a topic you would like to write about. If necessary, some of the writing time can be dedicated to research, but do try to fit in at least ten to fifteen minutes of writing each day.
Week three – 3-4 hours writing/week (30-40 minutes/day) Through this exercise I encourage you to not only write, but take the time to find different places to write. If the weather allows take a pen and notebook outside to a quiet spot and let the words flow. Continue to research as necessary and start putting together a few pages of completed writing.
Week four – 3-4 hours writing/week (30-40 minutes/day) If your goal is like mine, finish one article this week. Also take some time to get some queries out to publications. I know it may be crazy to complete an article before having a publication accept it for publication, but as you’ll note, part of my goal was to complete three articles. With the ultimate goal of having one accepted for publication. I’m using the goal as part of my exercise to get me in the practice of more focused writing. If you’re goal is bigger, such as completing your first book, strive to have your first couple of chapters done this week. This week may take more time than outlined above. You may need to dedicate two solid hours to writing on one of your days off to help complete your goal, similar to the time you’d dedicate to running one of the long runs that become a critical part of training for a marathon.
By now, writing has hopefully become a part of your normal routine. Use the weekly plans outlined above and adjust as needed to help you meet your writing objective. If you find that you write better in longer stretches of time, set your personal writing schedule accordingly. Don’t be afraid to pencil writing time in each day of the week, if this is what keeps you motivated to write. But most important of all, dedicate the time required to help you achieve your writing goal within the time frame you identified. And don’t forget to celebrate the accomplishment of achieving your writing goal. Then set your sites on your next big writing event.