How Tai Chi Will Make You a Better Writer


Can Tai Chi make you a better writer?

I spend 10 hours a day writing user guides, online help and other such delights. One of the hazards of working these long hours is migraine, back pain and (literally) a pain in the neck. You can get away with this in your 20s, but as you get older you need to take greater care of your health. I really hate jogging (: and looked for an alternative form of exercise. I found Tai Chi.

The Tai Chi Guide to Technical Writing

I start work at 6 a.m. most days. By 12am I’m ready for a break. Usually I walk by the canal or hit the gym. But, it gets a bit monotonous. All those thread-mills pounding along. And no-one ever looks happy in the gym. All so serious – fight the flab!

My local gym (I’m in Beijing, great place!) offer Tai Chi classes every Thursday. So, why not? Along I went.

Now, I’m pretty sporty and have done yoga, dancing and other such activities.

How hard can it be?

It is really hard.

No, really, really hard.

What’s difficult is the simplicity of the whole thing

If you tighten up, get tense, or start to get negative, then you’ll lose your footing and look a bit of a clown. Luckily, our teacher (it’s a group class) is very calm and shepherds us along. Bit by bit we got there.

Remember all of this is in Chinese – and you know more Chinese than I do!

At a certain point, I felt defeated. Despite my best efforts, I could not get it.

Also, I’m left-handed (first excuse!) so I ended up doing all the steps back to front, backwards and upside down. It really was crushing but I kept a brave face and went on.

By the way, all the others were ladies — and no-one spoke a word of English. Let’s say I soon became light entertainment.

Why not?

But then it clicked.

I did a few turns, swayed this way and completed a small routine. A minor triumph. After that I went home and re-started on my technical writing.

So, did this improve your user guides?


Tai Chi makes you:

1. Stop your mind.

For this I am very grateful. It’s so difficult at first, you have to just stop thinking and ‘feel’ how it works.

2. Eat less

I noticed that after I finish, I tend to eat a smaller lunch, maybe a salad and feel more calm. Not sedated. Calm.

3. Sleep better

I try to do 10 min at night when junior is in bed. It seems to slow down the machine. Thoughts, worries, deadlines melt away.

4. Less time-wasting

The lesson is about 45 min every Thursday, so I gave up a few other activities. In real terms, it meant less time on social media sites, checking email and other time-killers.

Once you stop doing these things, you realize how pointless they really are – or for me anyway.

5. Better documents

This is the acid test, isn’t it?

When you sleep well as night, eat better, feel calm, are in less pain, and waste less time twittering with some jezebel, then you’re output is bound to improve.

How about you?

What do you do to take care of your health?

Do you find Tai Chi, Yoga, or other such activities really make a difference?