I hate ab days in the gym.
In case you haven’t noticed from my gym references in posts and everyday conversation, I’m a pretty diehard gym rat. And yes, I have the shirt to prove it.
Okay I don’t actually have the shirt, but I should.
In all seriousness, working out has really helped me with many aspects of my writing. It’s an amazing way to clear my head, rid myself of nervous energy (okay straight up debilitating anxiety), and keeps me healthy. It puts me in a better mood so that I can go and write my little heart out more freely.
One workout in particular has stayed with me. It was almost two years ago, and I wasn’t doing abs that day – I know, the first line of this post is misleading, but stay with me.
I was chatting with another regular gym-goer. He was the one doing abs that day, and when I walked by, I jokingly said, “More power to you; I hate doing abs.”
I of course said this after his set, because that’s proper gym etiquette. It also gave him a chance to respond, but it wasn’t what I expected him to say – I didn’t expect him to basically change my life with only a few sentences. He said, “You know, I used to hate abs as well, but then I realized I only hated them because they were my weakest muscle group. We tend to veer away from our weaknesses.”
I didn’t immediately respond, well, because I am not weak, good sir. I am strong and capable, and I really just don’t like ab exercises. Crunches make me dizzy, and planking for a whole minute bores me.
But his words stayed with me for a long time. We tend to veer away from our weaknesses.
Let it soak in….
After days of me irritated by his words, I took a second look at myself. Admittedly, my abs were pretty weak. I only ever did crunches and planks about once a month. In addition to my (valid) reasoning above, I didn’t like doing them because I hated when my abs were sore – it made me nauseated. So much so that I couldn’t eat in peace. And what is life without being able to eat in peace?
But truthfully, if I worked on strengthening my abs and core regularly, I wouldn’t get so painfully sore each time. Sure I’d be sore – if I did them correctly anyway – but the soreness wouldn’t always be so excruciating. I’d get stronger and better at the exercises.
Even more so, strengthening this part of my body would help me with other exercises, especially with keeping my balance for lunges on leg day (my favorite!).
The benefits would be more than just being able to see a hint of abs. Which, I’ve always loved Sonic Blasts too much to lean out enough, anyway, so seeing an entire six pack on my body is an impossibility I embraced long ago.
This whole thing got me thinking of my weaknesses beyond the gym, particularly (and obviously) in writing. My major weakness – there are many – but this one major weakness is setting.
Setting has been my weakness with every story I’ve ever written, something I’m becoming more conscious of and working on. Because like strengthening my core helps the rest of my body, improving my use of setting would help my stories.
There’s so much to do with setting beyond “the wall is white” and “they were at the park.” The setting sets the scene, tone, mood, and often pushes the story forward – if we let it. Saying the walls are white is a good start, but going beyond that to describe the way the bullet holes resemble a constellation, and/or the way it the room resembles an insane asylum (Why am I so dark sometimes??) – these are more specific descriptions that I want to strive for.
The reason behind my weakness is that I think it’s hard coming up with a good place to insert setting description. I often find it awkward to stop an exchange to describe the sky, but I’ve started analyzing other stories and the authors’ uses of setting. This has been so beyond helpful in figuring out good ways to incorporate setting description.
So, I’ve been re-evaluating my organization and placement of setting descriptions in my own stories. I don’t worry so much about it in my first or second drafts, but it’s something I rearrange and develop in later drafts.
I also often find that I’m not very effective in describing the setting. I feel my descriptions are pretty lame (“the walls are white”? Yes that was real y’all!). They don’t tend to flow with the rest of my writing style. But again, this is something I’m at least aware of now and striving to improve upon in the name of the story as a whole.
This is still in progress. I can’t just change it overnight, just as I can’t magically make my abs strong. But I have been doing abs 2-3 times a week now for the last couple months and can tell a difference (FINALLY). In much the same way, I’ve noticed a slight difference when I compare older stories to my more recent ones. My setting descriptions are more effective but could certainly still use some work.
As a whole, I’m a work in progress, my writing included. But being aware of my weaknesses, asking myself seriously “what weaknesses?” instead of the sarcastic version, was the first step toward improving my overall self.
So I encourage you all to reflect on your own weaknesses and refrain from veering away from them. Consider them with an open mind – not like my initial reaction to my fellow gym enthusiast. With an open mind, we can be honest about the areas we need to improve upon so that we may become our best selves.
Let’s acknowledge our weaknesses, and then take the next step to address them. This way, our weaknesses may one day become our strengths.