Saturday, June 10, 2006

On day six, and a torturous metaphor

Only five pages last night. I played football after work, and could barely lift a match when I got home, let alone a laptop, or even a pencil. Still, soldiered on.
The disciplines of writing and exercise have many points of comparison. No one can go into a gym for the first time in years and complete a two hour workout or lift 100lbs without herniating. You have to work in short bursts, starting with the 15lb block.
Likewise, although any writers just starting out will be told they need to write for at least two hours a day, I wouldn't advise trying this unless you’ve already developed a modicum of writing stamina. Two hours is a long time to concentrate on something you're unfamiliar with. Concentration is a fragile thing, and before you know it, you'll be firing up Safari or Firefox, totally discouraged. Puny weaklings like us should not try and match pace with the Atlases of our acquaintance. We need a easier regimen to follow, to build our endurance.
Start slow, try to do a half hour a day. And don't try to lift the 250lb monster. Again, keep it small, and build up. On day one, you'll spend half an hour planning out the most unoriginal, cliched tripe, or putting down flat, tin-eared dialogue and still end up breaking out in a sweat, wheezing like your grandad's accordian, or your nan’s bowels.

Half the battle is keeping at it. Going back to the gym, or desk, even though you can still barely function from the last visit. You may be feeble now, but soon you’ll feel the muscles tighten and see the flab disappearing. It gets easier.
Eventually, you'll be taking part in iron-man tournaments, or writing non-stop for hours on end, layering in sub-text, throwing the most unpredictable reversals at your readers and generally feeling fitter than you've ever done. I'm not there yet, nowhere near in fact. I can just about cope with writing three pages at a time. Then I need to make a cup of tea, or roll up a smoke, before settling in to attack another three. But this way I can write, so far, around nine pages in an evening.
Just do a little bit, often, and it'll do you good.

Category: Writing

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