Aside from novel-writing, I’m obsessed with nutrition and healthy lifestyle information. I read nutrition and exercise articles almost daily. I put much of the nutritional advice I read consistently into practice; I put almost none of the exercise advice I read consistently into practice.
I binge exercise. I cycle between short periods of dedicated, intense exercise—until I burn out, get into shape, or get bored—and long periods of doing absolutely nothing—until my body starts to atrophy and I finally declare “I must do something…drastic” and I eventually embark on another round of getting back into shape.
(Note 1: After an entire winter of doing absolutely nothing, I’m currently at the “I must do something drastic…soon” phase in the cycle.
Note 2: Okay, “dedicated, intense exercise” may be an exaggeration…it’s not that intense nor that dedicated. Moving on.)
To the point, I’ve read a great deal about the value of Interval Training in exercise and highly recommend it (despite rarely doing it). For instance, if one runs (which I don’t, if I can help it), interval training would involve alternating between short, intense, full-out sprints, and slow, steady recovery jogs in one training session. I’ve realized that the same habits that I’ve applied (or haven’t but should) to exercise also apply to writing:
In school, I practiced binge-writing as a sprinter, typically only writing when assignments required it, and sitting down at the keyboard to start writing an essay twelve-to-twenty-four hours before the deadline. Full-on sprint to submission (no time for warm-up or cool-down) and then collapse and recover until the next deadline looms. It had it’s advantages. (Otherwise, why did I do it that way through eight years of university?)
In business, I prefer a marathon approach, working on a copywriting project methodically and steadily from start to finish with as few disruptions as possible. The more times interruptions take my eyes from the screen, or other projects divert my attention, the more time required to figure out where I left off and what I need to pick up again.
In novel-writing, I’m still discovering my stride but I think I would call it “interval writing”. I complete a number of days of research—slowly, steadily accumulating the facts I need. Then, with all the required details before me, and driven by the stress of not having posted an update for several days, I pick up the pace, pounding out and posting several new sections as quickly as possible. Feeling a sense of accomplishment at having posted new content, I rest and recover (aka focus on all the other work I’ve neglected) for a few days. During that time, I tend to go back to leisurely re-read and further tweak the new sections (regardless of the fact that I’ve already posted them). Then, eventually, I realize that I haven’t yet won the race, its only just begun. Adrenalin rises and I head back to the computer for another lap around the World Wide Web.
In the chapter, Phoenix Rising, I describe paranormal inspiration. The character awakens from a dream and instantly starts writing without hesitation, like she had described herself doing in Phoenix Dreaming: “I picture myself seated comfortably, long after midnight, a cat asleep beside me, my fingers effortlessly tapping out word after beautiful word onto the glowing screen. My mind fearlessly opening to the page, revealing my deepest thoughts faster than I can type them.”
I have experienced this kind of inspirational writing, during which I felt more like I were channeling the story than creating it, once in my life. (I’ll save what I wrote during that experience for a different post.) The experience exhilarated, humbled, and perplexed me. It also eluded me: I have never succeeded in repeating it.
Frankly, my typical experience writing feels more like my two experiences giving birth than creative channeling: tediously prolonged, exhaustingly labourious, and intensely uncomfortable—hence the preface to my novel, Birth of a Story.
Occasionally, I half-awaken around 3am and toss-and-turn as my mind churns over creative solutions to my next chapter’s dilemma. Sometimes, the solutions still sound inspired in the morning and other times they fall flat.
For me, writing requires persistent patience and stoic determination. Will it become easier with practice? I bloody-well hope so. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, onward…one word at a time.
Chapter 1: I sit in a small, cold cell, facing the door. I feel paralyzed and alone. I do not know where I am or why I am here so I am afraid. I don’t know what is on the other side of the door so I fear it too.
Chapter 2: I sit in a small, cold cell facing the door. I want to get out but I don’t know how. I ask God for help and suddenly a large metal key appears in front of me.
Chapter 3: I sit in a small, cold cell facing the door. I see the key but fear that it will not work. Instead of trying it, I search all around to my left and my right for another key but I do not find one.
Chapter 4: I sit in a small, cold cell facing the door. I finally decide to try the key in front of me in the lock. When I get up and insert the key in the keyhole, the door swings easily open before I turn it—I realize the door was never locked.
Chapter 5: I step out of the small, cold cell and turn around to close the door behind me. As I do, I see that the cell only has three sides rather than four—I realize there was never a wall behind me.
Chapter 6: As I walk away from the cell, I turn around to look at it one last time. But, it has disappeared—I realize it never actually existed in the first place.
Deadlines. Lifelines. Storylines.
The truth is this story started to form in my mind several years ago and I have been attempting to work on it in the closet. But it is dark and lonely in there. And, if I continue to progress at this rate, it will be published posthumously (maybe).
I need momentum, encouragement, accountability. And deadlines. I really need deadlines.
I commit to working on the progressive realization of this novel daily and publishing something (of the book, about the book, or about my experience with the book) on this website regularly in 2015. I hope you will hold me accountable to doing it.