How deadlifting a car can help with your first (or second) novel

'I've just had a great idea for a narrative device.'

‘I’ve just had a great idea for a narrative device.’

So: as even the most disinterested readers of this site will know, two of my great joys in life are writing stuff and deadlifting. I’ve written five books (four published by children’s publisher Scholastic, one feminist zombie comedy) and I’ve deadlifted a small van in competition (ten reps, at the expense of several thousand blood vessels in my face). Since I’m not one to mess around, two of my goals this year are to:

a) Write a better, more exciting and even stupider sequel to the zombie book.

b) Finally hit a triple-bodyweight deadlift.

Now: more astute readers of this site will know that I also think that doing most difficult things will prepare you for doing other difficult things. Or, in the words of Miyamoto Musashi: ‘When you know the way broadly, you see it in all things.’ So you’re probably wondering what I think deadlifting and writing a sequel to the book that SFX described as ‘A joy to read’ have in common. WONDER NO MORE.

1. You might not ever do it

This is honestly the most important thing to acknowledge. I’ve heard writing a novel compared to running a marathon or being pregnant, but that’s simply wrong – in a marathon there’s a clearly-defined finish line and you’ll get there if you keep putting one foot in front of another, and, though I’m no expert on having babies, I’m pretty sure they come out after nine months however much you procrastinate. In a novel, though, you can get stuck on rewrites, or decide whole swathes aren’t good enough, or simply slow down and get mired in despair. Similarly, in deadlifting, you can just get fat, or drink too much, or get old, or just not ever actually train enough. At some point, your chance will be gone. You have to acknowledge the possibility of failure. Because otherwise you won’t be scared enough of it to put in the work.

2. You won’t get it done in a day

Because of the scale of both goals, no single day – however monstrous the workout, however many synonyms for ‘said’ you come up with – is going to get it done, or even make a monumental difference. That one time you get super-motivated is not going to get things done. What matters more than one big day is consistency – sitting at your desk or showing up at the gym day after day after day, and really trying, even when you can’t think of anything or your legs are still sore.

3. Gadgets cannot help you

Anthony Trollope (who forced himself to write 2,500 words a day before he went to his job at the local post office) didn’t have a subscription to Scrivener, and Ernie Frantz hit a near quadruple-bodyweight deadlift before the 531 plan, Jack3D or internet message boards were invented. Yes, it is a fine thing that so many resources exist to help you in your goals, but a lot of them aren’t helping you, and honestly, plenty of them are probably holding you back. Before you read another book about plot structure or programme-hop to another training plan, consider whether you’d get better results by just working a bit harder.

4. It’s about more than just time at the desk/gym

Either of these goals are tough enough that you’re unlikely to get to them without making changes to the rest of your life. Realistically, the four hours a week you spend in the gym aren’t as important as the rest of the week, when you’re eating properly, making sure you get enough sleep to recover and resisting the temptation to go get shitfaced. Similarly, writing a novel is about more than just your special alone time in the house – it’s about sketching out plot points on post-it notes at lunch, carrying a notebook wherever you go (everybody says this, nobody does it) and resisting the temptation to go get shitfaced. If you can’t face that, you won’t get there.


More people than you’d think are capable of writing a novel. More people than you’d think are capable of a triple-bodyweight deadlift. Yes, they seem hard if you look at all the resources created to dealing with them, or if you listen to many of your friends and colleagues, or build them up too much, or mess around for years pretending to do them without actually buckling down to doing them. But they aren’t beyond you. You could get them done. I’m going to do both this year, and I’m no more badass than you. What’s stopping you?

HOMEWORK: If you don’t care about writing a book or doing a physical challnge, work out how this all applies to something you do care about. And start getting it done.

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.

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