How I Write – Habit 1

One of the more common questions I (and other) writers get asked quite a lot is how we actually do it. How do we write? What are our habits when it comes to tapping away at the keys in the hopes that our words make sentences and those sentences turn into a story? So, I thought I’d take a moment and share one of the things I do that helps me in my continuing career as an author.


Ever since my father had his first heart attack when I was 16 (he was 41 at the time) I’ve been fairly obsessed with staying fit. Up until I was 16, I was interested in exercise solely for the purpose of attracting girls. But seeing my father have a brush with death instilled a deeper appreciation for my overall health. I don’t necessarily exercise every day, but I’m active every single day. And I’ve set my life up in such a way that it’s rare that I will not do something each day that invigorates the ol’ physical vehicle.

I usually exercise in the morning as I’ve found it’s a great time for me to get a workout in. I used to set aside 60-90 minutes per day to workout, but I don’t do that any longer. Nowadays, thanks to my good friend Rich Borgatti over at Mountain Strength Fitness I’ve become extremely interested in Crossfit. I like the fact that the exercises are all designed for practical strength and cardio fitness. No more heaving weights just for the sake of isolating a small muscle, the Crossfit workout is great at developing a total body approach to fitness, something that neatly ties in with the total body approach to self-protection from the Ninjutsu training I’ve been doing for twenty years. Crossfit is great for me because it is maximum effort in a short space of time, hence the benefit of both resistance training and cardio training packed into one workout. I love it. My schedule doesn’t allow me to join a group right now, although I plan to in the near future. For now, I’m doing it on my own and peppering Rich with any questions I have about technique, theory, etc. (Since Rich is also a student of Ninjutsu, this works great when I see him at the dojo…)

After I’ve cranked out the daily workout, I’ll usually shower and dress, followed by a breakfast high in protein to repair and fuel the body. Once that’s done, it’s time to work. Charged up from the workout and feeling full from a good breakfast, I find the words come very quickly when I sit down to write. With the rest of my body already “activated”, the muse/brainpower want to get in on the action as well and the neurons and synapses and all the other oozy gray matter start percolating and discharging some text. In effect, I’ve taken the same approach to my writing as I do to my fitness and martial arts: total body. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, I’m engaged to deliver the best writing I can.

Now, lest this turn into too much of a soapbox and you think I advocate marathon training as a means of developing good writing, it doesn’t take much to get started with this technique. You could easily take a quick twenty minute walk – even around the house. (This is what I do any time I’m on the phone: I walk laps around my house) The idea is to engage all parts of your person before you sit down to write. So a quick walk, followed by something that activates your mental state, and then you should sit down and see what happens.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you. Or share some of your own techniques in the comments section below!

One more thing: don’t forget to have fun!

PS: THE FIXER graphic novel is now up for pre-order! I’d appreciate you ordering a copy if you happen to enjoy my Lawson Vampire series!

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  • TheGeekyWife January 25, 2010  

    Very interesting! I never thought about working the body to get the mind going. I will definitely have to give that a try.

  • Merle January 25, 2010  

    Don’t your neighbors stare? Lol. I could see how exercise physically stimulates the mind, helping one to “think/write! Do you wake up really early to do this? Takes a lot of motivation to exercise! You do a great job in both!

  • Matt S January 25, 2010  

    Huh, I’ll have to pay attention to my brain next time I exercise and see if it is trying to be creative. My mood definitely improves, so I’m feeling down and whiny before I exercise, I suddenly feel happy and alert afterwards. The experiment will be to pick up my guitar instead of firing up the Playstation, I guess.

  • jonfmerz January 25, 2010  

    Well exercise does trigger the release of endorphins, so that’s probably it. Good luck with the experiment, Matt!

  • Dave Maciver January 26, 2010  

    My girlfriend is in the second year of a Geology degree and she’s planning to start going swimming a couple of times a week for this kind of reason, health body = healthy mind. I’ll jump to the gym while she’s doing that as it’ll be on our way back from work.

    My own tip is pretty much the exact opposite though. Whenever I was blocked (I say was as I haven’t written in a while due to lack of time) I always managed to get unblocked in the bath. Ideas that I couldn’t flesh out would develop well in there. So if you find yourself snarled up, go sit in the tub for an hour 🙂

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