Pilates for Writers

By Deana Luchia

Like most activities, writing gets easier with practice, especially when that practice becomes a daily habit – the words flow more readily, ideas sizzle and pop into your head, the sentences seem to form themselves. The hard-earned tools required are right there, at your fingertips, not buried under several weeks or months of dusty procrastination. When I haven’t written for a while, I’m forcing sleepy connections in my brain to wake up and produce, create, be literary. ‘Come on!’ I bellow at myself, and I keep bellowing and cajoling until after a few frustrating days the cogs are turning smoothly (or smoothish-ly) again. Inevitably, once they are, I’m vowing to write every day. ‘EVERY DAY!’ I shout. (It’s quite a noisy process in my house, getting back into writing mode).

This push to hone your fiction writing and then keep your writing machinery rust free and finely tuned is quite difficult when you’re working at home, alone. No one’s inquiring as to why you haven’t made any progress on your novel, just as no one’s demanding better sentences or a more intriguing word order, questioning the plausibility of your characters, or suggesting that you tone down the overblown adjectives. No one…but you. Which is why I’m an advocate of writing classes, not just because they teach you about structure or story arcs or how to plot a 300 page novel (all important lessons) but because they give your creativity a good workout, a sort of Pilates for writers. And that works especially well when you have to be creative, on the spot, with other writers listening to your efforts. You’ll get a swift response as to whether your writing works or how it can be improved. This is priceless.

A couple of months ago I did a travel writing course – a one-day workshop in London with popular travel writer Peter Carty. I realised, about five minutes in, that this was one of those classes where you produce material on the spot and read it out.

Once I’d got over my panic, it was brilliant. Sort of like being a stand up on open mic night. This is my material. What do you think? Scary and exhilarating and a perfect way to improve your writing. If something worked, fabulous. If it didn’t, move on and try again. Over several exercises I learnt so much more than I would have if I’d sat there taking notes. (There are hand-outs once the workshop is done).

One of our own Authorlab writers, Sarah Acton, offers monthly poetry workshops (in Lyme Regis, Devon). These too are practical sessions including writing exercises and guidance on performance techniques. Hands on, you get to exercise your writing muscles in situ, not at home days later, with no one providing that vital immediate feedback.

Whilst travel features, poetry and fiction are all very different, they use tools from the same box – it’s all about the writing. Which is why I’m going to sign up for a whole host of different classes – business writing, screen writing, children’s fiction – all ways to improve my craft. And decidedly more efficient that shouting at myself.

Peter Carty holds regular writing workshops in London as well as distant learning courses: https://www.travelwritingworkshop.co.uk

For more information on Sarah Acton’s poetry workshops, email: blackvenpress@gmail.com for more details/to book a place.

Writing classes abound, but if you can’t find one that suits you, think of starting your own workshop with writer friends.

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5 thoughts on “Pilates for Writers

  1. I love Pilates and you are absolutely right – if I miss it for a couple of weeks I am already feeling rusty, just as I do when I’m not writing regularly. I think your suggestion of getting along to a writing workshop, or writing group is a great one and has inspired me to try to plan something in for the summer! Thanks Deana

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  2. Deana, I really enjoyed this post and I can relate to it so well it’s scary. I think you are right; I need a writing class to exercise my writing muscles and online workshops or classes just don’t motivate me. I need to be face to face, which is why my local writers group (which sadly only meets a few months of the year) is so helpful. Hope you sell some travel features! Happy writing.

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  3. This is brilliant advice Deana and rings ever so true for me; I’m just ever so damn lazy when it comes to writing. Joining classes is no doubt a stellar idea and I’ll investigate the possibility of enrolling in something worthwhile. Loved the Pilates imagery by the way 😀

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  4. Hi Deana, I agree, and very elegantly put. It really helps to get ‘live’ feedback and it’s such a challenge to work on the spot. In my poetry classes writing the poem after prompts and a talk is the most rewarding part of the session, and I’m always amazed at what participants have been able to produce spontaneously under pressure. The standard is high and I think we all surprise ourselves when we rise to a challenge with witnesses. It’s so easy to get stuck in isolation as a writer too. Lovely piece. X

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