Always Working, Even at the Gym

If you follow me on Twitter you probably know I have this annoying little habit of going to the gym all the time. Either that, or getting outside for a run or a hike.

Yeah, I admit it, I love my exercise. But NOT for the reasons you might think. I mean, physical health is important and all, but honestly, would that be enough to motivate me? No way, huh-uh, not happening.

The truth is, I go to the gym for YOU. Yep, it seems that when I’m at the gym, I have all kinds of insights about the writing life, then I come back and share them on my blog and you all think these things just sort of come to me, but they wouldn’t if I hadn’t been at the gym.

Case in point. I’ve been thinking lately about the fact that there are parts of a writing career that writers don’t enjoy. It’s different for each person, and some of you might be very strange and actually enjoy all of it, but the parts writers typically don’t enjoy include:

→ Writing a synopsis
→ Writing a proposal
→ Writing a query
→ The entire query process
→ Blogging and social networking as new “requirements”
→ Any aspect of marketing the book

To be successful in this business, sometimes we need to step outside the comfort zone. It isn’t enough to just write your book; there are other things that need to be done.

So I was thinking about all this while at the same time I was going through a similar thought process about my gym regimen. I needed to shake things up a bit. Kick it up a notch. So I decided to try some new exercise classes. The only ones I normally do are Boot Camp and Body Combat, the most difficult classes my gym offers, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to branch out. So one week, I went for it.

And here’s what I learned during one crazy outside-my-comfort-zone week at the gym:

→ Lesson 1: If you’re focused on how much you hate something, you’re not going to do it well.

Class: Zumba. Can I just tell you how much I detest Zumba? Possibly as much as some of you hate synopsis or query-writing. I’m not at the gym to shake my booty and swivel my hips, I’m there to sweat and work my tail off, darn it. But I tried it anyway. From the first song, I was in torture. Hating every second. Doing the fancy footwork, shimmying my shoulders, all that stuff, and hating it. I wanted to leave but I promised myself I’d stay at least 30 minutes. It felt like 30 hours.

And you know what? Since I was so focused on my intense dislike of all things Zumba, I was unwilling to try hard. I couldn’t give it my all. I couldn’t break a sweat, my heart rate didn’t even go up. I wasn’t getting a good workout because I wasn’t giving all I had.

For you: Ask yourself: is this something I must do? Or is there another way to accomplish my goal? If the activity is a must (i.e writing a query) then face the dislike head-on and figure out a way to get past it so that you can truly give it your all. If there’s another way to accomplish your goal, by all means, head that direction!

Which is what I did. Next up:

→ Lesson 2: Sometimes, the fact that you know something will help you is enough to motivate you.

Class: Interval Step. An advanced step class where the movement never stops for 55 minutes. I don’t take step classes because the complicated foot work scares me. At the beginning, it seemed pretty easy to follow. Gradually the steps became more complicated until it became laughable to try and keep up. I persisted and to my amazement, it got my heart rate up and I was really sweating. I was getting a good workout regardless of how goofy I looked, and that was incredibly motivating for me. Now I’ve been doing Step for three weeks and surprise! I love it.

For you: You may not enjoy social networking or writing a proposal, but perhaps if you focus on the end result, the task will become easier. Who knows, you might end up enjoying it.

→ Lesson 3: Sometimes results come slowly. Don’t quit too soon out of impatience.

Class: Bosu Core Training. This is a class of steady movements that are difficult and awkward yet they don’t seem like they’re doing much good. I prefer a quicker pace in my exercise classes, and I prefer not to feel like a dork, so I didn’t really like this one.

Until the next day. Wow, muscles I hadn’t talked with in awhile were communicating loud and clear. I finally realized that slow and steady sometimes works, and that I should do this class once in awhile to shake up my routine.

For you: Don’t quit blogging and social networking because you’re not seeing immediate results. Don’t quit querying, don’t quit improving your craft. Give it time.

Enough lessons for today… gotta get back to the gym. I need blog ideas for 2010.


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Carol on December 24, 2009 at 7:21 PM

    >Thanks for the great entry. You had me nodding my head and smiling.
    Merry Christmas

  2. Anne Lang Bundy on December 23, 2009 at 4:55 PM

    >If I'm going to do something, I'm going to embrace doing it "as unto the Lord"—with excellence and without whining.

    For what it's worth, as best I recall I've done everything you've suggested (however gently or firmly). I've yet to regret a one of them.

    I do appreciate you and your wisdom, Rachelle. Merry Christmas!

  3. ParisBreakfasts on December 23, 2009 at 7:05 AM

    >I am so with you on this one!
    I get so many ideas just enroute to the pool.
    And then while in the pool doint watergym, more ideas come flowing.
    Yet many times I sit around in my bathing suit procrastinating and never make it over.
    so much food for thought in this post.
    THANKS so much Rachelle and have a wonderful holiday,
    kind regards,

  4. wendy on December 23, 2009 at 12:48 AM

    >Wonderful post, Rachel. Thank you!

    Many Christmas blessings 🙂

  5. Daniel F. Case on December 22, 2009 at 9:32 PM


    Your claim that you're "going to the gym for me" doesn't stand up to examination. If you're going to the gym for me, then why am I putting on weight?

    Do me a favor and eat some chocolate for me instead. Maybe that will have the desired effect. If that doesn't work, try the red velvet cake. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!


  6. Angela Slatter on December 22, 2009 at 8:26 PM

    >Rachelle, this is such an awesome blog and thank you for being so generous with your professional knowledge!

  7. lauradroege on December 22, 2009 at 5:15 PM

    >Thanks for the encouragement to not quit simply because I'm not seeing immediate results, especially in the social networking aspect. Through your analogy, I was reminded of when I started exercising/running: I hated every single minute of my run. I could only "run" at 5 m.p.h. for one minute at a time, and I watched the treadmill clock for the entire forty-five minute run.

    It took over two years before I started to like running. It took well over two years to start to see any results from lifting weights, too, probably because I had no clue what I was doing!

    So I could relate to this analogy and keep jogging along even when it seems like no one cares about my blog or writing or anything. Thanks for the encouragement, Rachelle.

  8. Scathing Reviewer on December 22, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    >I am just laughing b/c I also am a regular gym person. Yet I hate Zumba, and can only do step aerobic if the same steps are repeated over and over again.

  9. Donna M. Kohlstrom on December 22, 2009 at 3:13 PM

    >"No pain…no gain!… Grin and bear it!" Often these are my writing mottos!!

    I wear the battle scars of "working out" in my writing room! They are my badges of courage that I wear proudly!

    Love your analogy. Even though I only write short stories, I learn lots from your posts and even if they're not relative to my writing, I enjoy them and pass along the info.

  10. Richard on December 22, 2009 at 2:33 PM

    >Thank you for your time and effort in producing this blog which contains so many helpful ideas for writers. And Merry Christmas!

  11. Erica Faraone on December 22, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    >Great post, Rachelle! I'm at the gym 2-3 times a week, talk about it on Twitter, love my machines & music and I've thought about trying Zumba. I have good rhythm & coordination, but it still sounds a little scary. Thanks to you, I'm thinking I should try it a least once!

    Now when I'm thinking about blog post ideas while working out, I'll also ask myself what aspect of writing I'm putting off because it's harder or "sounds scary." Thanks for linking those two concepts together. I'll remember and work on that.

    Thanks for sharing with us – and working out for us!

  12. Jenna on December 22, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    >Well, yay for the gym! Thanks for sharing this–I loved reading it, and it's so true. I'll be sharing this with my writing group. 🙂

  13. Sarah Forgrave on December 22, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    >Love the comparisons and the encouragement to keep at it. Thanks, Rachelle!

    I'm anxious to try a Zumba class…it looks like so much fun! But, I'm pretty sure it's off limits until after my pregnancy is over. Not sure what all that shaking of the hips would do to me right now. 🙂

  14. Kelly Combs on December 22, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    >Loved the analogy! This was a great post and I enjoyed it, both the exercise and non-exercise portions. I hate exercising! I wish I would come to love it, but I haven't yet. Try, try again.

    I hope you & your fireman, and the gymnast, and the horse lover have a very merry Christmas!!! (I hope the gymnast and the horse lover are not the same daughter…I mean to include both your girls).

  15. momishome2 on December 22, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    >Double whammy today! Way to sock it to us, Rachelle! Figures that I couldn't quite drag myself out of bed early enough to work out today. Figures that I've got internal deadlines today and can't get myself motivated to start. Of course, I'm also packing for a 6-day out-of-town trip & running kids around town too. Okay, I really hate just getting started and trying to stay focused with too much stuff going on around me. I keep telling myself that it'd be so much easier if I had my own office at the beach (yeah, right).
    ~ Bethany L.

  16. Marcus Brotherton on December 22, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    >A truly great post, Rachelle, thanks so much for offering this perspective. I sometimes wonder how Hemingway would have felt, faced with the necessity of creating a fan page on Facebook.

  17. on December 22, 2009 at 11:58 AM

    >gotta get back to the gym. I need blog ideas for 2010.

    Grab me a good book idea while you're there, please. Thank you!

  18. T. Anne on December 22, 2009 at 11:52 AM

    >Rachelle, I run everyday, save for the odd day when it just doesn't happen. I don't do it because I'm athleticly inclined or I want the world to see me in my sports bra and running pants. I do it because I worked in the medical profession long enough to know where our human bodies will lead us eventually and I'd prefer to stay fit. Oddly the only thing on my mind while I work out is writing. As much as my body begs me to stop that gyrating nonsense my brain starts in on the fight and demands to know why I'm plucking fresh words out of it everyday. So for both reasons it usually turns into a time of prayer and ultimately I feel better both physically and mentally for my efforts. I'm glad to know I have this in common with you.
    Next time your in LA I'll race you to Wayfarers 😉

  19. Diane Mettler on December 22, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    >This year's resolution is to get out there, be brave and not let fear of failure (or looking stupid) stop me. This post is helping me build my momentum. Thanks!

  20. Dara on December 22, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    >Loving the analogy! Although I cannot understand the fascination you have with the gym 😛

    Perhaps it may help though with my writing…maybe I'll consider going to the community gym. Maybe.

  21. Kristen Torres-Toro on December 22, 2009 at 10:48 AM

    >These are great analogies, Rachelle! Thank you! Now I just need to get to a gym. Eish… not really looking forward to that!

  22. Mira on December 22, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    >Cool post, Rachelle! Great motivation. 🙂


  23. Steena Holmes on December 22, 2009 at 10:20 AM

    >you sound exactly like my trainer (other than the writing tidbits). I'm seeing him today – I'll have to let him know I already had my hype talk for the day 😉

  24. Rachel on December 22, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    >I love it. Excellent analogies!! Also, I have the exact same gym attitudes that you do. And I snuffled laughter in my coffee about both the Zumba class and the Bosu Core training ("I prefer not to feel like a dork…") hahahaha

    The mental lessons I learn at the gym often have spiritual, relational, and writing implications.

  25. Matilda McCloud on December 22, 2009 at 9:14 AM

    >Great analogies. I just rejoined a gym, but I don't get off the cardio machines. I KNOW I have to lift some weights to rev up my metabolism, but I get lazy. And I know I have to push myself harder with my writing, too, and not only write the fun parts (dialogue). That's funny about Zumba…I was thinking of taking a class! Got kinda scared off by it though….

  26. CKHB on December 22, 2009 at 8:56 AM

    >Congrats, you just inspired dozens of squishy writers to get ourselves back to the gym! Oh, and also there were industry lessons in there. Awesome!

  27. Bonita on December 22, 2009 at 8:45 AM

    >This gave me the motivation I need to actually start an exercise program in 2010. If it helps me write then I better do it!

  28. Alexis Grant on December 22, 2009 at 8:30 AM


    I agree with some of the other folks here that this is a topic a lot of people can relate to. Most of us who exercise regularly know it has more than just physical benefits! Sometimes that's hard to explain to non-active people, but you've done it well here.

    If you're stuck anywhere during your writing process, the best thing you can do for yourself is turn off your laptop and go for a run!

  29. lynnrush on December 22, 2009 at 8:23 AM

    >Right on, Rachelle. Exercise is a HUGE part of my writing life. So, I can totally relate to what you're saying.

    Great post.

  30. DL Hammons on December 22, 2009 at 7:49 AM

    >WOW. Reading that piece I got the unshakable feeling that you were talking directly to me, and thats what great blogging does. You really know how to get inside writers heads!

    As far as working out goes, I too receive inspiration at the gym, but its from a different source. After I spend ninety minutes bouncing my heart rate up and down like its on a trampoline, combined with pushing weights around, I submerge myself in the clubs hot tub. I've driven home with many a plot twist or quirky character traits just from sitting in hot water for that quarter hour.

  31. Timothy Fish on December 22, 2009 at 7:46 AM

    >Thanks for calling me strange. I really appreciate that. No chocolate for you.

    Actually, I enjoy writing the synopsis. But then, with my writing process, it is practically done by the time I start on it. What I like about the synopsis is that it’s the place where you can get your hands around the story. It’s also where we get to tell people about a story we love. What could be more fun than that.

    What I hate? I hate first drafts. They always take so long to do. I know all of the important points of the story, but there’s all this stuff that has to happen in between. And then when we finish with the first draft, it is terrible. I wish I could just lay it out there move on to the second draft without spending so much time on the first draft.

  32. Sharon A. Lavy on December 22, 2009 at 7:44 AM

    >Wow. What a great inspiration for me just before I leave for weight loss surgery. I will have to be motivated to get up and walk later today and each day to add more exercise.

    Also I want to jump in here and say after I have edited my wip to death and I take a chapter and read it out loud while walking around my dining room table I get into the character and realize he would not say it this way etc.

    So I do understand that exercise will make me a better writer. Thank you for doing it to make you a better agent. 🙂

  33. Author Sandra D. Bricker on December 22, 2009 at 7:37 AM

    >Honestly, Rachelle. Sometimes you're such a buzz kill.


    Talk of exercise during the holidays? That's just wrong on so many levels.

    But then if we stood side-by-side, they could tell us apart from space so … Ok. Maybe after the new year I'll push the boundaries of my comfort zone instead of the waistband of my jeans.

  34. Kate on December 22, 2009 at 7:30 AM

    >Love this post – very motivating and I love the comparison to the gym. I force myself to go three times a week and it took months to see results. Thanks for writing

    Kate xx

  35. Jessica on December 22, 2009 at 7:29 AM

    >Interesting lessons and classes! I've never taken classes because I have NO rhythm, but some of those sound kind of cool. What is Zumba, dancing?
    Thanks for working out so much for the good of writers. Sweating and sacrificing your body! We appreciate it. LOL!

  36. Krista Phillips on December 22, 2009 at 7:23 AM

    >Great analogies!!! Yes sometimes we have to do things we don't enjoy (exercise is SO up there on the list!) because it's GOOD for us and necessary.

    Reminds me of my 5 yr old… she asked me at bedtime one time, "How long do I have to brush my teeth?" I said a minute or two, and she said, "No, like, when do I get to stop brushing my teeth and not do it anymore ever. I really don't like it."

    Of course, I went through the whole "teeth will rot and fall out" scare and she shuffled back to the bathroom to scrub those pearly whites… For her though, it wasn't not liking the act of brushing… it was pure laziness of not wanting to take the time to do it.

    Hmmmm… that sounds a little writing familiar too…. (uncomfortable with the arrow pointing at myself)

  37. Lance Albury on December 22, 2009 at 6:44 AM

    >Good advice. The only class I failed in highschool was Shop; I hated woodworking. Now, since applying myself, I make furniture as a hobby.

    I failed a computer programming class in college and had to drop it because I hated it. I later applied myself and now I'm an IT manager.

    On the flipside, I feel that many of the things Rachelle mentioned are hated by writers due to the ambiguity surrounding them and the fact that everyone has different expectations.

  38. Katie Ganshert on December 22, 2009 at 6:40 AM

    >ACK! I haven't been to the gym in AGES! I used to have such a wonderful workout regime. Toned muscles. Low resting heartrate. It was lovely.

    I tried this dancing class once and laughed hysterically at myself the entire time. My BF convinced me to go. She might as well be a professional dancer. Me? I have no rhythm. I was so focused on how ridiculous I looked that I didn't get much of a workout either.

    Great workout analogies, Rachelle. Wonderful insights on a Tuesday.

  39. Lynda Schab on December 22, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    >LOVE this post. Not only have you encouraged me as a writer, but now I have this sudden urge to get to the gym…

  40. Jill on December 22, 2009 at 4:57 AM

    >Great analogy. It motivated me to stick with it–both with aspects of writing and with exercise. : ) Merry Christmas!