Stamina–CoronaLife Day 607

Every day at bedtime, my daughter complains that her legs ache. This is not a surprise. After 18 months of mostly being home, combined with being on crutches all of August and in an ankle brace all of September, she is tremendously out of shape. That 40 minutes of exercise in gym every day has her muscles balking.

I sit here watching her swim laps, working on her endurance with the rest of her class…and I realize she is not the only one in need of more stamina.

My daily fatigue has been with me since the pandemic started, and I attributed a lot of it to my anxiety levels being through the roof. My anxiety often manifests as deep fatigue. Add to that the fact that I often only get about 6 hours of sleep a night, and it made sense.

But now I think there is another factor. As we move back to a more normal-ish existence, I am going out more. Socializing more. Interacting more.

And my mental and social muscles are flabby. I have no stamina.

The 45 minute drive to my folks’ house, which used to be nothing, is a grueling trek.

Going to a meeting in person makes me want to hibernate.

Focusing for 4 hours at an online conference drains me.

I need to build my stamina again.

I find myself working in bursts, trading spurts of productivity with times of scrolling mindlessly online or napping.

Concentration and socializing skills need exercise to stay in shape. This is the “learning loss” I have experienced during this upheaval.

While my daughter works on her swimming endurance, I will continue to work on getting myself back in mental shape.

I hope I can, because I am tired of not feeling like myself. It will take work, time, and patience–which is just another way of saying stamina.

3 Ways Writing is Like Swimming

My daughter likes to swim. She started swimming at age 3, was on her first swim team at 6. She has been on a swim team every summer for 4 years.

In order to compete in swimming, you need 3 skills: form, speed, and stamina.

Turns out, you need those same 3 skills if you want to compete in writing, too.


In swimming, getting your body to form the right patterns in the water is vital. If you perform the strokes correctly, if your body parts all work in perfect sync, you go faster with less effort.

Writing is similar. Our craft is our form, and the sooner we master the elements, the smoother our writing process becomes. As we get the myriad craft elements from structure to grammar to work in sync, the stories flow faster and with less effort.


Efficiency of form helps you cut through the water faster, so you increase your speed. You can’t win if you are slow. However, swimming is not just about beating the other people.  It’s also about personal bests, competing with yourself and trying to lower your times every time you compete.

Writing efficiency will help you compete in the publishing trenches, because you can put more work out more quickly. This does not mean you need to be a speed demon in writing. I am not, and other successful writers are not. Some are. But you can’t focus on other people’s speed. All you can do is hone your process so you can write efficiently without losing quality in your work. You are always looking for a personal best.


Competitive swimming requires endurance. When my daughter started swimming, her first races were more a matter if she would make it the full 25 meters without having to stop. Now, at age 10, the freestyle is 50 meters and the other strokes are still 25. But next year they all go up to 50 meters. That will require building stamina (and mastering how to turn).

A writing career is a long-haul career. Success usually does not come early or quickly. And if you write novel-length books, each project can be a marathon in itself. We need to cultivate creative and emotional stamina to get us through. There are many paths to success, so we need to master turning when one route is blocked. Sometimes our muscles hurt and we can barely catch our breath, but if we persevere we will eventually touch the wall.

Whether we write for fun or for profit, all writers share the joy and passion for writing. But for those who do want to publish, we also need to develop form, speed, and stamina.

Once we do, we can swim with the best of them.

The Acceptability of Quitting Creative Arts

It’s possible to quit virtually anything in life. You can quit a job, quit school, quit smoking, quit drinking. You can even quit a marriage or being a parent. Some things are harder to quit than others. Some things are more socially acceptable to quit than others. Usually, ending a bad habit is good. Walking out on your kids, not so much.

My daughter wants to quit swim class. Because of pool repairs, it’s at a different facility, and she hates it there. The water is colder, the edge of the pool is harder to hold on to, and the locker rooms are chilly. She wants to stop until the pool is fixed. I told her no.

Why? Because sometimes necessary things in life are hard or unpleasant, but still need to be done. Because swimming is a survival skill she needs to learn. Because it is, after all, only 3 more weeks. She needs to stick to it, because she is still not a strong swimmer, still uses a floatation device sometimes. So we will finish this session and sign up for the next.

Then I started wondering, what if she had said she wanted to quit dance instead of swim? Truthfully, I would have told her she had to finish out the session—because she made a commitment and should honor it—but that if she didn’t want to sign up for another session, that was fine.

Then I wondered why the difference in my thinking. I am a creative myself, so you’d think I’d push her hard to stick with dancing, right?

I think several things led to my different conclusions. First, our culture does not value creative arts, and even though I am a creative, I have been influenced by our culture. It is so easy to quit a creative endeavor. In fact, we creatives are often encouraged to quit. To sideline our passion as a hobby. To do something more…worthwhile with our time.

Second, as a creative, I know that the worst thing I can do when the passion is gone is push too hard to get it back. If my daughter wanted to give up dance, I would let her because if she has lost the joy of it, why continue? Creative pursuits need to be followed because we want them and can’t do without them. Very few of us will see monetary gains from these pursuits, so if we find no joy in them, no inspiration, no fulfillment, then what’s the point?

Third, sometimes walking away from a creative art is exactly what you need to find out how much it means to you. We all get burnt out. Sometimes a break is exactly what we need to find the passion again. And if you find you can walk away and never look back, that art was never your true calling to start with.

Despite our cultural stigma that “nobody likes a quitter,” I think it’s more important to examine what you are quitting and why. After all, I’ve quit every job I’ve ever had in order to end up as a write-from-home mom. The key is knowing when quitting is a smart move vs. a lazy move.

So ignore cultural pressures if you can. Dreams are hard to come by. Hold on tight—but if you must quit, quit smart.

What do you think about quitting a creative endeavor? When is it wise to quit, if ever?

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