WRITING KNOWHOW Why Writing is Like Exercise

In a one-off article, Production Editor, Tracy Curran, discusses how, in her view, writing is very similar to exercise

Everyone's writing process is different and, in the last seven years, my writing habits have definitely evolved. However, in February 2021, I wrote an article for the WriteMentor newsletter – another great writing community – discussing how my writing mindset was very similar to my exercise routine. This is something I still stand by and which I thought might be useful to share for a second time.

Outside of my family and caring commitments, I have two main ways in which I choose to spend my time. The first is reading and writing stories for children – a labour of love – and the second is fitness, which most of the time just feels like labour. But, even though they feel like very different hobbies, they are actually not that different at all. Here are some reasons why, for me, writing is like exercise:

Welcome to the long game: Grit, determination, motivation, perseverance, and discipline. These are all the things you need to show up for a workout day after day, month after month, and they are all the things you need if you are serious about getting your writing out there. Of course, there will be some massive highs; from the exhilaration of pounding the pavement with uplifting music blaring through your headphones to escaping into the magical worlds you are conjuring up in your head. However, muscles strengthen and tone through the repetition of key moves; squat... squat... squat... redraft... redraft... redraft... and even then, it may take some time for the scales to tip in your favour.

Don’t forget to warm-up: This is a classic mistake that I have made over and over again when it comes to both fitness and writing. To allow your mind and body to reach its full potential, ease yourself in gently. Allowing ten minutes for free writing may unlock your voice or your next plot point. Sceptical? Yes, so was I! Until I tried it and found some of my best ideas came from a timed warm-up or prompt. Who’d have thought it? And if nothing comes of it... well, it’s less painful than a pulled muscle.

Shake it up: It doesn’t take long for the body to get used to one type of exercise. In the same way you might be a die-hard aerobics fan, you might be dead set on the genre you want to write. That’s totally fine but never be afraid to shake it up and try new things. Poetry? A short story? Flash fiction? A different age-group? You may surprise yourself and add a new string to your bow!

Running on the beach is my go to, but I also do boxing, interval training, swimming and yoga

ogether vs Alone:
 Okay, so we all know writing is a solitary activity but when this tips into isolation, is it going to reap the best results? When someone caught me at the school gates one morning and asked if they could join me on my run, my legs turned to jelly. Why? Because I knew they were going to push me right out of my comfort zone and challenge me to up my game. This led to me joining a local fitness group where suddenly I had an instructor who knew how to get the best out of me and a whole community to share the burn with. Suddenly workouts were so much more fun! With brilliant writing communities out there, like SCBWI, there’s no need to feel like you’re alone. Seek feedback, hone your craft, hang out with like-minded people and improve!!


Eyes on your own: Although I have built up a decent level of fitness, my local village has a huge surf culture and parents compete in triathlons for fun! When I attempted a half marathon, I was demoralised to see other people steaming past me. Yet, I still reached the finish line, was awarded the same medal as everyone else and got a healthy sense of achievement for completing something I never thought I could. Comparing your journey to someone else’s isn’t going to do anything but evoke negative emotions and, unlike a triathlon, writing isn’t a race. It’s about getting your very best work into the hands of deserving young readers whether it takes four years or forty. So, let’s focus on that!

Me taking part in The Race for Life Kids with my three children in 2023

Soak up the small successes: Whatever your end goal is, this journey, at times, can feel like an insurmountable mountain. Break it down into small steps and celebrate each milestone; a completed draft, good feedback, an extra lap or an improved time. It will help you carry on.

Just one more push: Can’t do it? Had enough of edits? Just one rejection too many? That's fine. Take a break! The writing journey is as gruelling as the toughest of workouts and both our bodies and brains need to rest and reboot. But you’ve got this. Dig deep, take a breath (or a rest), seek encouragement and give it one... more... try. Everything you’ve got! When you’ve done your absolute best, you’ll know.

*Header image by Ell Rose and Tita Berredo
*Photographs provided by Tracy Curran


Tracy Curran 
is the Production Editor for Words & Pictures and enjoys writing picture books, young fiction and lower middle-grade novels. Known as Little Cornish Writer, you can find her on Instagram, X/Twitter and Facebook

She also enjoys reviewing children's books on her blog The Breadcrumb Forest.


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Find their work at https://fourfooteleven.com
Follow them on Instagram and X/Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or www.titaberredo.com
Contact her atilluscoordinator@britishscbwi.org

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