I am haunted by the ghost of Jack LaLanne; his ethereal form jogs along side me, offering unsolicited, frankly terrifying fitness advice. His ecotplasm shudders and shifts as he tells me about correct form. Sometimes, late at night, I think I see his specter doing leg raises at the very edges of my periphery.
Before he leaves, he always tells me his favorite quote: “Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.”
Thanks, Jack. Sleep well sweet, fit prince. But seriously, leave me alone.
If my blog is my gym, then my books are my diet. They are the fuel for my writing, the literary calories that I ingest so that I can burn them off through vigorous finger movement.
Like normal, people food, not all books are created equal. Some are healthy, some are unhealthy. Some make you feel good, some make you feel bad. Some sharpen your mind to a perfect, number two pencil point, some turn it into a pile of amorphous goo, hardly capable of ordering something off of the dollar menu.
The key is moderation. It’s OK to cook up a burger with big thick Twilight patties, smothered in a fat-laden sauce made entirely of puréed Call of Duty fan-fiction. Just don’t do it all the time. Balance it out with a nice salad of mixed Susan Orlean with Joan Didion dressing. A nice George R.R. Martin smoothie topped with Tolkien berries makes for an excellent boost to your creative immune system.
Much like the old adage, “you are what you eat” the books that you read shape your mind and your skill. You will start to emulate whatever you read, subconsciously, whether good or bad. Much like your hot, toned body will become a sagging ruin after too many plates of bacon cheese fries, your mind will become an insipid, trite mess if you only feed it plot holes, bad grammar, and inconsistent characterization.
“You are what you read.”
Whatever you read, be critical. Train your eyes to find what is working, but also what is grinding the entire piece to a halt. Question assertions, look for substantiation. Don’t take anything at face value (Mitt Romney is a werecrocodile? I’d like to see some sources, mister). The more active you are when you read, the faster you’ll find what makes good writing good. And the faster you’ll be able to replicate it in your own writing. And the faster you’ll be fabulously rich and famous, doing book signings at Books-A-Million on the weekends.
Most importantly (if you are a writer) you have to write just as much as your read. The very basic principle for losing weight is “calories in < calories out.” It’s nice to sit and read and gather hundreds upon thousands upon millions of great ideas, but if you never sit down and commit them to Word doc, they’ll remain ideas until your brain decides it doesn’t need them any more. Or until you drink one too many beers on a Friday night.
Jack LaLanne was secretly a writing teacher. All of his advice about fitness and nutrition is applicable to our craft as well.
Make your blog workouts count. Read well.