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Writing Is Like Exercise: Step Up With Routine

By Patrick Kirkland · September 18, 2011

I hate exercise. It's not necessarily that I actually hate moving around, because I don't. I actually really enjoy that. I hate the stress that comes with it. The idea of scheduling in half an hour or an hour of moving every day, or else I'll get fat seems ridiculous to me. Why the scare tactics? And then I look at myself when I don't schedule in some kind of movement every day, and I realize, I'm fat. Talk about a necessary evil. And then there's the idea of the gym. In New York, prices range from $70/month for your typical New York Sports Club – the McDonald's of gyms – up to the $250/month of Reebok and Equinox gyms. All for what? As Lester Burnham says in American Beauty, "I want to look good naked."

Well, I want to look good naked, AND keep my $250. So about a year and a half ago, I discovered P90X. You know the one. Turning on the TV one morning, (still on Comedy Central from watching The Daily Show) I saw the infomercial. 50 year old Tony Horton, looking like he just stepped off the cover of GQ, looks into the camera, and tells me "BRING IT." I wanted to punch him. But I picked up the phone and ordered it anyway. 

P90X is a little over an hour of exercise, every single day. And it's not just bicep curls. It's pullups, pushups, weights, bands, stretches, yoga, plyometrics- good God, even talking about it exhausts me. When I first started, I clocked in at 230lbs and not able to do a single pull up. The first day, I got through about 10 minutes. My wife, on the other hand, finished almost every workout. Male ego blown. Women really are better. 

At the end of every workout, there was this guy, Mark Sisson, that talked about nutrition and recovery. Of course, he was trying to sell his own Recovery Drink formula, but I ended up Googling him anyway. This led me to MarksDailyApple. And after reading his website, and then his book, I did something crazy, I emptied out an entire pantry full of pastas, flours, cookies, and basically anything that came in a box, and joined the Primal/Paleo lifestyle. 

I had new energy. I was learning about new things. One day I saw a post that had those crazy little toe shoes on it, the Vibram FiveFingers. At that point, I had a killer case of plantar fasciitis, and I saw so many comments from people that said "CURED!" So I tried it. I bought one pair. Then four more. I picked up running. At some point, my brain decided it would be a good idea to go barefoot. And so I did. The first time, the entire run, I wondered if I was even doing it right. Forget the fact that I used to do this everyday, when I was 5. (Everybody asks me, what about when you step on glass, or hypodermic needles? Well, to that I respond, where in the world are you people running???) A whole new weird world of exercise had opened up to me. And the best thing: I was dropping weight. Fast. 

In some weeks, I'd drop a pound or two. In some, I'd drop 5 or 6. I wasn't even trying, but I was starting to look completely different. I started getting a lot of energy– an insane amount of energy. I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to spread the word. So I started a blog. 

I started writing. Every day. I'd wake up, sit down at my kitchen table, and talk about what I was doing, but then the posts became about more. They became about sitting at the kitchen table and writing. I started pouring out what I knew about writing, after years of writing specs and copy. Sentences became paragraphs, paragraphs became thousand word articles, and then they became pages.  I started having a following. One day I saw an article fly past on Twitter about Diablo Cody, and so I responded back to it. Just for fun, I wrote a blog post about Diablo Cody's murder of the English language. TSL found it, and reposted it. Then came a review about 127 Hours. Then the next thing I know, a weekly column. 

Several months later, I answer a summons for jury duty, and several months after that, I have a book published, and it's selling on Amazon, and in the top 100 on iTunes. I start making contacts that I never would have had. And it all started with that damn P90X infomercial, and the fact I couldn't do a pull-up. 

Now, I never actually finished P90X. In fact, I got about three weeks into it, and quit. Because if you've ever done it, you know. It's f*@$ing hard. I can finally do a pull-up, but 3 sets of 25 is a little much. 

I'm not actually saying you need to start exercising. But I am saying that exercise is part of a larger commitment: the commitment to better yourself. To make certain decisions and actions that you wouldn't have otherwise. Dropping grains or adding in coconut oil or running barefoot – they're just choices. But the drive to be a better person kicks things in high gear, and that can take you somewhere. 

What are you doing? What are your goals? Because, as TSL's own Michael Schilf tells me, “nobody cares about you, like you care about you.” It's your life. It's your writing. My goal is to tell great stories really well, and hopefully make a living. So every day, I sit down to write. Every day, I try to better myself just a little. And every day, I get a little better at it. Ideas come a little more organically. 

If you decide you want to go for a run, go for a run. Start small. And maybe like me, after a few short runs, you want more. So you change your diet, you kick off your shoes. You sprint instead of jog. And then you take it one step further. You start waking up in the mornings, earlier than every one else to sit down and write. You push the ideas out, and then you let them come. The commitment to a better you means small, but different, choices, every single day. And those choices add up, maybe to something huge.