Calisthenics for Writers


Close-up of barbells

Writer’s Butt is a real and tragic thing. You might be making great progress on that novel, but is your seat getting wider with every word count goal? Is your back so tight that when you stand up your arms are permanently locked in that T-Rex typing position? Time to stretch out and get the blood flowing with these specially designed exercises. (As always, consult your physician before starting any vigorous training regimen.)

Bind together seven copies of literary magazines that rejected you, and impale them on the end of a sharp stick. Now do the same with seven more mags on the other end of the stick. Now it’s time for the free lift! That thing must weigh at least ten pounds.

Sitting in your rolling chair, use your feet to propel yourself away from your computer in disgust. The sudden motion and rush of oxygen might give you a new idea. If it does, tiptoe-crawl your chair back to your desk, because you’re too far away to grab the edge of it with your hands. This uses your abs more than you’d think.

Switch to an old-timey manual typewriter. After a few weeks, your fingers will be strong enough to curl your own ironic handlebar moustache.

Gain acceptance to one of those colonies where the dining room is a seven-mile hike from your studio. Even better, go so long without showering that your wafting odor will guarantee you’ll be followed to dinner by some of the local wildlife, preferably bears.

I’m pretty sure Cormac McCarthy wrote all of Blood Meridian while using a Thighmaster.

Get a standing desk and post lots of photos of it on social media. You’ll find that every time someone cold punches you, you tighten your abs in preparation.

Hook up your laptop to a pedaling system. If you stop pedaling, you lose the document. If you hit your optimal heart rate, you win thirty seconds of Facebook time. Reaching your calorie goal will unlock spell-check.

Write at a coffee shop. Keep ordering coffee and water so you don’t feel guilty about hogging the table. Every time you get up to empty your bladder, leave your gross mittens on the table to save your space but take your computer with you so no one will steal it. Twelve trips to the bathroom x a twenty-foot journey x a five-pound backpack = maybe thirty calories against the thousand you just consumed in lattes. Bonus quad burn if you’re a girl and you squat to pee.

Strap your laptop to the back of an energetic dog and let it loose outside. Run and write, run and write. (Best in skunk-free areas.)

Post lots of articles online about how people who sit in chairs die sooner. That’ll totally help everything.

Remember: Salt is bad for you, and tears are made of salt. Purge your body of such toxins by reading your own reviews!

Stretch your back regularly. A good way to do this is to throw yourself on the floor in despair, and then realize you left your coffee up on the desk. Reach for it longingly. The next day, use the other arm.

Make like Hemingway and spend your writing breaks strangling caribou with your bare hands.

Every time you use a bird to symbolize freedom, or give the mean boss lady a clipped voice and clacking shoes, or compare someone’s skin to chocolate: ten push-ups.

Self-flagellation burns calories and builds endurance! You can build a handy cat o’ nine tails by braiding together strips of your worst drafts.

Remember to take one minute every hour to check the sales figures of people way more successful than you, preferably people whose writing you intensely dislike. Now consciously unclench your butt cheeks. Repeat. Unclench. Repeat. Unclench.

Two words: movable type.

If one glass of red wine is good for you, just think how healthy you’ll be by the end of AWP!

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