Cross-Training. Not Just For Athletes.

My college fencing team was awesome. Just awesome. I owe them a lot, and not just a bunch of fun memories. In fact, I took my first steps toward Actual Genuine Self-Confidence with my teammates metaphorically holding my hands. (I was an easy target for bullies for my entire life up till that point.)

So yeah. Good times, great people, fun activity, and many life lessons learned.

One of these lessons: Any movie where you have to fight Sting at the end is A Good Movie.

Another of these lessons: Cross-training can be just as important as training in your own sport.

Fencers tend to develop a muscular asymmetry after a while, because the fencing stance is asymmetrical.

I WAS going to put up a picture of real fencers... but this was way too much fun to NOT drop in here. Anyway, we're all geeks, right? If you want to see what real fencing stances look like, you can do an image search rather handily.

But it’s important to keep all muscles duly exercised when you’re an athlete. And here’s where the cross-training comes in.

The serious fencers in my club all had another sport that they practiced almost as hard as fencing. (I was not a serious fencer. Hobbyist, at best.) And each of their sports improved their performance in the other one.

For the same reason, our team warm-ups didn’t start with fencing-specific exercises. They’d start with soccer. Or basketball. Or the unbelievably delightful and overwhelmingly popular Chaos Ball (which is exactly what it sounds like.)

THEN we’d stretch and do lunges and squats and six-to-four-to-six circles and all those other things that make fencer folk all happy and lop-sided.

Relevance, Your Honor?

Coming right up!

So, just like cross-training is important for athletes, I feel like it’s vital for writers, too.

One of the most common pieces of writing advice I’ve gotten is to read a lot, and read widely.

(Purveyors of such advice often pause here to give me a significant stare and add: “That means OUTSIDE of genre fiction, too.” Whereupon I often sigh in resignation, force myself to pick out a book of Literature-with-a-capital-L or non-fiction, and invariably find myself sucked in completely and sad when it ends.)

Besides exposing you to really, REALLY neat ideas that you may not have encountered otherwise, reading outside your genre can shake some cobwebs out of your ruts and get you thinking about your own work in a completely different way.

And cross-training doesn’t stop with reading outside of the box, either.

As a matter of fact, some of the most powerful illustrations of powerful writing concepts come from art forms outside of the literary world. I plan to share a couple of examples that amazed me, from music lyrics in particular.

You know, later. Gotta keep you coming back SOMEHOW, right?

I don’t think my friends were just humoring me last month when they said that I was right to switch from output mode to intake mode for a while. I think all creative types need to cross-train by experiencing other people’s work. And that benefit is that much more valuable if the experiences are outside the creative types’ respective realms of expertise.

So….cross-train. If you’re a writer, read a lot. And read outside your chosen genre.

And if you’re REALLY brave….

CREATE outside your chosen genre, too. Cross-training without the training wheels! (Eh? See what I did there? πŸ˜€ )

Write romance.

Write Literature-with-a-capital-L.

Write haiku.

Write erotica.

Write something in your second language, if you have one.

Write a song.

Paint something.

Throw pottery.

Join a sports team.

Teach someone how to read.

Start a blog about something non-writing-related that you feel passionate about.

ALL of these things will make your writing in your chosen genre that much stronger.

PS: Any post where you have to fight Sting at the end is a good post.

(This was the only part of that fight scene I could find on YouTube. Sorry.)

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Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 1:32 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Any writing is good development. It trains you to put words together to bring out the idea in the best way you can.

    At work, I write web-content and other communications material. I’ve written technical manuals in the past. My chosen genre is science fiction, though I’ve written fantasy, too. And I’ve recently started writing a mystery. Each of these has its own challenges and skills, and it adds those skills to your others.

    There are those who say you have to write a million words of crap before you really know how to write. That million does not all have to be the same genre, or even fiction.

    Cross-training is good for writing development as well as muscular development. Good post, Doc!

  2. Will you be my life Guru?

    • Hah! Thanks for stopping by, Ken! It’s nice to see you!

  3. I agree with fighting Sting. Long live Maud’Dib! πŸ˜€


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