How Fitness Maven Jillian Michaels Inspired Me to Write

How Fitness Maven Jillian Michaels Inspired Me to Write

I love to read about writing.

  • Know of a book that will jump-start my imagination and get the creative juices flowing? Send it my way!

  • Published a manifesto that will give me the kick in the pants I need to write my first book? Let me get my highlighter ready!

  • Got a meme about the trials and tribulations of writing life? I’ll post it on Instagram!

I spend most of my time thinking about writing, reading others’ writing about writing, and looking at sappy quotes about writing. Anything except, you know, actually writing.

The fear of failure is often too overwhelming, so I rely on my good ol’ friend Procrastination to divert my attention. One of my techniques as of late is exercise. I started working out regularly a number of years ago but only recently have begun to use it as a tool for postponing my work.

Sorry! Can’t tackle writer’s block right now. Gotta do squats!

The (admittedly brief) period when I work out is the only sliver of my day when my brain is too busy trying to keep up with the moves on the screen to think about writing and the fact that I’m not writing and that I should be writing.

But lately, my new trick ain’t working.

I exercise solely to Jillian Michaels. Her app, her DVDs — whatever the format, she’s my go-to girl. Usually I can rely on her to yell at me, tell me I need to bend lower, kick higher, run faster. She comforts me, wrapping me in a virtual bear hug while saying, “I want you to feel like you are going to die.”

Occasionally, though, she gets a bit soft. She persuades and cajoles. She offers bon mots of encouragement — little quips to get you through that last lunge or plank.


But in my brain, these morale-boosters could just as easily be about writing. For example…

“If you know your why, you can tolerate any how.”

The idea behind this one, a Jillian staple, is simple. If you know why YOU want to do something — what YOUR personal motivation is — you will do anything to get there. If your why as a writer is to use your creative talent to have an impact on the world around you, you will get up at 5:30 a.m. to write before the kids are awake. You will carry an extra notebook at all times to jot down any ideas you may have while on the go. You will skip a lunch date with friends to squeeze in some critical reading time because you know one of the best ways to learn about writing is to read, read, read the work of the masters. You’ll tolerate any how to fulfill your why.

“A little bit every day goes a long way.”

This one, from Jillian’s most recent DVD, is a reminder to write every day, even if only in short bursts. Sure, maybe in her case, she’s saying a few daily crunches and triceps dips will pay off in the long run. But the way I hear it, sitting down and doing the work — actually writing every. single. day. — is critical to bettering myself as a writer. I would prefer it not be that way (hence the procrastination by way of exercise) but, sadly, you can’t achieve success unless you’re willing to put in the work.

Unless you’re a Kardashian.

“The past does not define you. The present does.”

I wrote recently about wishing I’d started out writing years ago. I would have, I could have, I should have…. Blah, blah, excuses, excuses. The fact is, I didn’t. I didn’t write a novel or complete a screenplay or submit short stories to literary journals. And I’m kicking myself for it. But I can’t let what did or didn’t happen in the past define who I am now. I am now writing. I am now a writer. Scratch that. A Writer, capital W. It’s time to stop concerning myself with time lost and start pursuing the dream I’ve always had.

“Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.”

Writing is hard. I can’t tell you the number of short stories and blog posts I’ve started and abandoned. And the idea of starting a novel ties my stomach in knots. All those words! The storyline! How the hell will I keep the characters straight? I find it way too easy to give up, especially when my inner critic informs me that I’m a fake who will never write anything of worth. But, as Jillian reminds us, you must persist. If you can push through that story, that blog post, that burpee, you’ll feel so damn proud of yourself when the work is done. And maybe you’ll have flatter abs, to boot.

“It’s not about perfect, it’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where the magic happens. That’s how change occurs.”

Again, completing that essay/blog post/short story/poem/novel can feel insurmountable at times, particularly when you’re in the dreaded first-draft stage. But putting the work in is half the battle. And if you put that effort into your work each day, you’ll eventually have a completed product you can share with the world.

Which brings me to one final Jillian gem…

“When you put positive energy and productive effort into the world it will come back to you.”

Indeed. I’ve now published numerous blog posts on Medium, and with each I’ve received wonderful feedback, not only from friends and family but from other writers. You might think your stories aren’t important or your work won’t be noticed, but you’d be surprised by how many people will comment, applaud, and share your work. It’s an enormously gratifying feeling to discover that your words have even a microscopic impact on another individual. I highly encourage you to pursue that feeling and put your work out there.

So, thanks, Jillian Michaels, for the inspiration. And the tighter glutes.


A version of this post first appeared in The Writing Cooperative

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