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The #1 thing every writer should do every day

Attending Robert McKee’s Story Seminar in Los Angeles a few years ago was an experience I will never forget. From the hotel I stayed in with whispering elevators, themed floors, fuchsia colored walls, and stuffed sheep in the lobby, to Mr. McKee’s intense (read scary) demeanor and boot camp-style story lessons, I learned more than I could ever have imagined. I learned about story events, scenes, beats, sequences, acts, inciting incidents, story climaxes, different types of plots, and much more–all designed to make us better storytellers.

At the end of our long, exhausting weekend, Mr. McKee said there was one more thing we needed to do everyday if we wanted to become a “serious” writer. We collectively held our breath, waiting for this last drop of wisdom to anoint us into full-fledged writerhood.

What he said was not what we expected.

“Go to the gym,” he said. “Exercise. Work out every single day—no matter what.” He said when we finished with our screenplays or novels or scripts, we would need all the energy we could muster to get out there and sell ourselves and our product.

I’m sure some of us thought Mr. McKee was joking, or at least exaggerating, but I assure you he wasn’t.  Both physically and mentally fit, he walks his talk because he knows a fit, healthy body not only gives us writers the required energy to sell our work, but it also keeps us writing and engaged with life.

The author Dean Koontz, another fine example of a fit writer, once said that the imagination is like a muscle. The more we flex it, the stronger it becomes. As writers, we need all the imagination and all the muscle we can get.

So next time you think you don’t have time to exercise, think again—or don’t think—just get out there and move your body. And remember—sometimes the best time to brainstorm is when you’re working out.

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