How I Toned My 'Writer's Core' in 2011

During the last decade fitness experts have touted the importance of developing a strong core. A well developed core (the muscles that run the length of the trunk and torso), stabilizes the spine and pelvis and contributes to balance and strength. The core helps us transfer powerful energy outward to the rest of the body. Looking back, I can see that in 2011, I metaphorically worked on my writer's core. This included paying attention to the craft of writing and strengthening a self-care system to support my writing life. Shaping my writer's core afforded me a new level of emotional fitness than I had ever experienced before.

In toning my writer's core I committed to reviewing the scaffolding of writing (e.g. plot, dialogue, setting, scene building, etc), taking classes and workshops that explored the process of revision, the structure of successful memoirs and key components in writing for children. This allowed me to return to my writing with a generous attention to the shaping of each paragraph and scene in ways that I was unable to do before.

For years, I labored alone with my writing or joined writing groups that were dysfunctional. Despite these past experiences, I developed decent skills on giving feedback and support.  Prior to this year, however, I didn’t know how to ask for support or even what kinds of writing support might be good for me. That has changed dramatically. 2011 was my year for developing layers and layers of yummy writing support. Some fell into my lap and others I actively sought out.  

February:  An acquaintance approached me to be a writing buddy; I accept and we meet monthly to share writing progress, fellowship and encouragement.

April:  I'm asked to join two monthly critique groups.  I accept. We share similar commitments to writing and neither group is dysfunctional.

May:  I discover She Writes! Joining She Writes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of receiving writerly support.  

July-December :  I join creativity writer SARK's online writing program WINS(Write It Now with SARK), and her online community AHA (A Haven and Accelerator for Writers).  SARK offers profound knowledge about how to deal with pesky inner critics. I highly recommend this innovative program!

This unprecedented year of support has helped me transform several writing blocks (i.e. all or nothing bursts of writing, procrastination and perfectionism, fear, etc) that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.

Communing with so many writers and participating in several writing communities also gently shifted my focus from an exclusive one set on individual publication to recognizing and celebrating the courage, camaraderie and confidence that comes from being part of a community of writers. I want to write not just for personal advancement, but also to be in conversation and build rapport with writing kin. I've gotten equally invested in other writers' success as well as my own. I'm becoming a better writer, but also a more generous one, too.

Part of toning my core was also to openly explore and write about the difficult feelings that can stop us as writers including rejection, jealousy, envy, competition and anxiety. Blogging about new ways to cope with rejection and openly discussing this topic with other writers was a great strengthener.

A February workshop I took from my writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson, also shifted my perspective on submitting one's work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should have gathered at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been  trying to get published I have reached that number, no problem. Later as I was reviewing my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn't even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, all year, in a serious and organized way. By taking this challenge on, I ushered in plenty of rejections but also a second place prize for a poem in the Word and Sound International Writing Competition, and other writing successes. As SARK says, "If we're not getting rejected, we're not stretching far enough."

In training the physical core, one has to undertake lots of demanding moves: plank, side plank, crunches and push-ups and do them consistently. In 2011, I also worked on the hard things that didn't feel so good in the short term like developing a daily writing practice and embracing a new perspective on revising longer projects.

For 2012, my intention is continue to strengthen my writer's core by…

--maintaining and sustaining layers of support ( being active in She Writes, meetings with my writing buddy, continue participating in my three writing groups, and finish round 3 of WINS)

--continuing to work on the craft of writing by taking additional classes

--striving to make it to 99 rejections this year!

--moving forward with a consistent writing practice

--practicing an attitude of revising longer works with delight instead of dread


I wish you a strong writer's core for 2012!


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  • Michele Tracy Berger

    Hi Fiona and Tonya,

    Thanks for your comments. I think the public nature of sharing our intentions and commitments creates such a strong motivation to start the year off right and hold each other accountable.

  • Tonya Rice

    I love this approach, Michele. Terrific insight. I've built my plans this year upon the accomplishments I made last year since it's all working toward strengthening my writing goals. The end results are grand, but the journey is actually much better.

  • Satya Robyn

    Love the idea of strengthening your core... sounds like you had a pretty good year! Here's to more writing in 2012...