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Knee Pushups and Your Writing Weaknesses

February 21, 2012

Yesterday (as I write this), I ran 12 miles. It’s a new personal high for me, and if my legs weren’t all rubbery and sore, I’d have jumped for joy.

This morning, because my legs were still somewhat wobbly, I did what’s called a recovery workout. That means your butt gets thrashed, but it happens in slow motion. Among the moves in this exercise are the push ups you do where your hands are below your shoulders and your elbows hug your side, rather than flaring out.

I can do a lot of things, but I can’t do a military push up to save my life. In general, I could even say I’m in decent shape, but that doesn’t mean I can do a military push up.

So I drop to my knees and do what’s derisively considered by many guys to be a “girl push up”.

But the fact is, I can’t currently do a military push up without going to my knees. So I go to my knees until I gain enough strength to do standard military push ups. It’s really no big deal. It’s how you get better. I enjoy running and cardio more, but in order to meet my goals, I have to work on the stuff where I’m less advanced. (And for the record, I know girls who can do one-handed pushups.)

The same thing applies to writing technique. I can write some incredible dialog. And I can write from a prompt like nobody’s business. But when it gets to descriptive passages, I really struggle about what to put in and what to leave out. The purpose of description is to give your reader just enough knowledge of the setting so the character’s actions make sense, and to tell necessary details about the characters and their actions.

Is it important that the guy whose office your protagonist enters has a picture on the desk of him with a woman and two children? Or that there’s a picture of him with Barry Bonds on the wall. Both might be important if the guy is cheating on his wife. But if his marital fidelity, baseball fandom, and marital status aren’t important to the story, they aren’t. I struggle with stuff like that, so I need to work on it.

In fact, I need to go out of my way to work on it. It’s not fun for me, but if I want to get better, it’s a requirement.

Same with you. Schedule some time to work on the stuff you’re bad at, the type of writing you don’t enjoy. It’ll improve your overall product.

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2 Comments
  1. Barbara permalink
    February 21, 2012 6:32 am

    I agree to push through the pain to get the results you want. I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks.

  2. February 21, 2012 11:16 am

    Great stuff Chris.
    I struggle with the same, even with blog comments.
    so… I deleted the rest.

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