Archive for January 10th, 2013

January 10, 2013

Writers can improve fitness with little bursts of exercise

My somewhat worn-out running shoes

My somewhat worn-out running shoes

I discovered a few years ago that I felt better when I take breaks to run up and down my hall. It’s become a habit to do this every time I have something in the printer.

It’s not much, I know, but writing and a sedentary lifestyle often go hand in hand–and even a few minutes jogging in place makes a difference to my energy levels and ability to think. That’s got to be good for anyone trying to write.

At a meeting earlier this week, I heard a speaker briefly mention that exercising for more than an hour is counterproductive. My first thought was An hour? Who’s got an hour to spend, anyway?

I realized I’d love the luxury of spending that much time taking care of myself.

And then, it hit me–I have these little moments when the printer is running. I can take advantage of all of these kinds of times.

I came home, opened up my laptop and began researching little bursts of exercise. Here’s what I found:

  • The Ten Minute Workout, Times Three–apparently running for three short bursts of ten minutes each is more effective at reducing blood pressure than a longer, more consolidated workout is. From the article:

As it turned out, exercise was helpful in controlling blood pressure, but breaking up the workout into three short sessions was significantly more effective than the single half-hour session. “The fractionized exercise led to lower average 24-hour blood pressure readings,” Dr. Gaesser says.

  • That same article mentions other studies. One of those studies indicates that children and teenagers exercising in bursts of five minutes have lower cholesterol risks, better blood pressure readings and better waistlines; another found greater aerobic fitness in previously sedentary people.
  • Here’s another article: 30 minutes exercise ‘better than an hour of training’ for weight loss

Adults who exercise for shorter bursts of time can lose as much weight as those who work out for up to twice as long, a study has suggested.

I think maybe I’m on to something here.

I’ll be adding to my ‘printer sprints.’ So, even though I wasn’t going to make any fitness-related New Year’s resolutions, I guess I am, after all. Here are my ideas:

  • After forty five minutes of intense writing and editing work, I HAVE to go roughhouse with my boy for at least five minutes. We can play ball, tumble across the living room floor, chase each other, and generally drive his toy tractors up and down the kitchen floor on our hands and knees. That’s got to count for something.
  • I’m a fan of the couch-to-5K program, but it’s hard to find a big block of time to make it work. I can do this, though: I can take ten minutes every few hours and walk, run, walk, run down my long and narrow basement hall. In the summer, I’ll take it outside.
  • Yoga as a wind-down–I don’t have to do a full routine, but I bet one or two poses at the end of my workday would help me relax and transition more easily into the cooking-dinner part of my life.
  • And, of course, there’s my stationary bicycle. I’m going to try to use that more when I’m spending time with my family in the evenings.

Well. There you have it…I’ve made a commitment now. Hold me to it. 🙂

January 10, 2013

Why I can’t choose a writing niche

DSC08359

Has anyone ever read the book Secrets of a Freelance Writer by Robert Bly?

I picked this book out of a bargain bin at a traveling book fair about eight years ago. I was excited. NOW I had all the answers; NOW I’d be able to make money writing, enough money to pay off our mortgage and allow my sweetheart husband to retire young.

I was in for a surprise.

Naively, I expected to learn about how to write award-winning freelance articles for major newspapers and national magazines. I anticipated taking notes on the three easy steps that would propel my status from a simple freelance journalist to syndicated-column fame.

Instead, I found a book packed full of ideas on how to break into the world of commercial sales writing. I get the impression that Mr. Bly makes more than a decent living writing the kinds of letters you get from insurance agents and sweepstakes.

I just wasn’t sure that type of writing was for me.

It’s not that I hate sales. I wrote my share of advertorials for a small city publication in North Dakota. Most of the time, it was enjoyable. The small corporate publicity brochures and sales papers I worked on were downright fun.

Stretching myself far enough to create an entire home industry based on sales pitches just seemed too far to go at the time.

I thought of this experience again during an interview the other day, when it became clear that yet another big oil public relations representative came from a journalistic background not much different from my own.

That’s happened a lot recently. I couldn’t stand it anymore. At the close of the interview, I found myself tapping my pen on my notepad, shoring up my nerve, asking an impertinent question I wasn’t sure I should ask.

“I know you don’t have time right now, but can I e-mail you sometime about setting up an appointment to find out more about why you became a public relations representative?” The words came out in a rush, and I had to repeat myself.

Mr. Public Relations’ voice changed. He stumbled over words for a second or two, but his tone morphed from ‘Professional-answerer-of-your-oil-related-questions’ to ‘Delighted-to-share-my-experiences-with-you.’ You can bet I’ll call him back after I meet the deadline I’m working on.

No, I’m not planning to become a publicist. I’m just curious about it. It’s like another ‘secret’ of a freelance writer, and I want to know what’s making so many journalists cross to the other side of writing.

Well, one other side of writing, anyway. The more I learn, the more I realize that there are ALL KINDS of writing experiences to be had. Here are a few of the many writing skills I want to learn:

  • Poetry
  • Mysteries or suspense novels
  • Young adult paranormal fiction (Not vampires and werewolves, though)
  • Nonfiction how-to books
  • Blogging (apparently)
  • Syndicated columnist (I dream about this one, but I’ve never looked very far into it—maybe I should really try this sometime)
  • Marketing (even Mr. Bly types of sales pitches)
  • Epic family and personal histories
  • Personal essays (You know–the kind that changes the world)

Some of these I’m actively practicing. Others I merely dabble in, although I plan to delve deeply into them someday.

What does that mean for me right now?

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I think it means I haven’t found a niche yet. I love too many things right now to specialize very well.

I know it’s probably not possible to write it all, at least not in this mortality. Still. After all these years, I remain at that place where I love writing in every form.

For that reason, I collect books on the writing craft. My newest acquisition, Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Ned Stuckey-French, arrived last week.

I’m sure I’ll find surprises in this book, too. I look forward to that.

My newest learn-how-to-write book! I've waited a while for this one.

My newest learn-how-to-write book! I’ve waited a while for this one.

Meanwhile, I’m curious. What do other people want to write about most?

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