Writing Muscles

I did a full side plank for the first time yesterday and ow. Things hurt. Things I didn’t even know I have hurt. Apparently there are more muscles in the side body than I realized.

(I am silly proud of myself, though. Side plank is not easy.)

I’ve also gone back to writing short fiction this week (it had been a while) and those more proverbial muscles are making themselves known, too.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of skill writing is lately, in no small part because of my ongoing job search. It’s a general kind of skill. A lot of people write well. And I’d venture to say that almost anyone can learn to write well.

Of course, there are a number of species of writing. There’s blog writing and writing for social media and email writing and legal writing and grant writing. My parents are both government contractors so I’m well acquainted with the particularly evil subspecies known as proposal writing. But even that has very particular characteristics and requirements. And once you know the requirements–done. It can be written.

I would even venture to say that editing is a peculiar cousin of writing, which is to say it uses many of the same muscles. As does teaching writing.

As someone who’s considered applying writing to any number of fields, I often wonder about the strain we put on those muscles. If we’re drawing from the same resources time and again, don’t we deplete them? I recall in particular a conversation I had with an alumna from my undergrad institution while I was still a student–she was an environmental lawyer and she liked being able to apply her creative skills to her legal writing, which was awesome. But she didn’t have much time or energy to consider any other kind of creativity–it was all funneled into briefs and motions, etc.

As we beef up some muscles, do we neglect others?

Obviously there are always those people who defy all of our expectations. They’re prolific everywhere and in everything and when they come home from a day job, they’re ready to keep going.

But as a young(er) writer, one of my constant concerns is balance. It’s not just about time, it’s about energy. Mental energy. If I write 5000 words of blog posts and 3000 words of cover letters every week, how much is left for fiction? How do I switch easily and naturally from one type of writing to another? How do I save all the right muscles from disuse?

It’s naturally a question of priorities and practice. How do you decide yours?

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